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Legislators ask Pritzker to stop General Iron’s move to the South Side from Lincoln Park

Wednesday, Jun 24, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sun-Times

Protesting what they call a discriminatory move that will exasperate respiratory health issues in a polluted community, six state legislators representing Chicago’s South Side are asking Gov. J.B. Pritzker to reject metal shredder General Iron’s planned move from Lincoln Park to the East Side. […]

The June 24 letter was delivered the day before a decision deadline on an environmental permit that would give General Iron the green light to move to a site at South Burley Avenue and 116th Street along the Calumet River. General Iron needs the construction and air-pollution control permit to build the new facility with its partner Reserve Management Group. Community groups have said a draft permit written by the state is weak and doesn’t protect residents from harmful air pollution. After accepting public comments, the agency is expected to rule on a final permit Thursday. […]

Pritzker’s office and the Illinois EPA have said state law limits the power they have to deny or write a permit for General Iron. For instance, numerous citations written by city of Chicago inspectors for violations of pollution and nuisance laws won’t be considered, state officials say. […]

General Iron’s Lincoln Park operation is currently closed after two explosions in May. The decision in 2018 to move from affluent Lincoln Park to the working-class Latino neighborhood is cited by activists as environmental racism. While much of that criticism has been directed at Mayor Lori Lightfoot and predecessor Rahm Emanuel, the lawmakers urged Pritzker to take a stand.

* The letter…

As legislators representing Chicago’s Southeast Side, we’re urging you to call for the denial of General Iron’s application for a construction permit in our community.

We’re troubled by reports of concerns from north side residents over the public health risks posed by the General Iron plant especially in light of their desire to relocate to our community. As you know, residents of the South side are disproportionately affected by respiratory issues due to a variety of factors including pollution. As our community grapples with the COVID crisis, now is not the time to fast track a construction permit to a repeat offender of state and federal environmental regulations.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (“IEPA”) faces a critical decision testing the agency’s commitment to protecting the health and welfare of my constituents: whether to turn a blind eye to the long history of environmental infractions of General Iron in its current Lincoln Park location and grant it a weak, unenforceable permit to move to a recognized environmental justice community, or to make good on the agency’s duty to protect the rights of all Illinois residents to a healthful environment and deny a permit to this repeat offender. The agency’s choice is clear.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has broad authority and a duty to protect the Southeast Side. This authority includes the discretion to deny permits based on historic violations. It also includes the duty to write stringent permits that go beyond the minimum required as necessary to ensure that regulated industry does not “cause or tend to cause air pollution” and so that those who have polluted our environment do not get a free pass to do so again. Furthermore, both Congress and the Illinois Assembly have prohibited IEPA from implementing its duties in ways that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin. IEPA’s own environmental justice policy, moreover, recognizes that the agency “supports the objectives of achieving environmental equity for all of the citizens of Illinois.”

Rather than uphold these duties and commitments, IEPA has proposed to issue a permit that would enable the relocation of a massive metal shredding facility from a White, wealthy and further gentrifying community to an environmental justice community. It is proposing to issue a permit that lacks any meaningful limits on pollution, while essentially leaving this chronic polluter to police itself with respect to virtually the same emission sources that the company has shown time and time again it cannot or will not control. And it is doing so where the applicant’s own air quality modeling shows the potential for violation of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

We urge IEPA to demonstrate its commitment to protecting the public health of all Illinoisans by preventing further pollution in Black and Brown communities of Chicago’s Southeast side and deny this permit.


Senator Robert Peters of the 13th Legislative District
Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. of the 17th Legislative District
Representative Kambium Buckner of the 26th Representative District
Representative Marcus C. Evans, Jr. of the 33rd Representative District
Representative Nicholas K. Smith of the 34th Representative
District Representative Curtis J. Tarver, II of the 25th Representative District


  1. - @misterjayem - Wednesday, Jun 24, 20 @ 3:38 pm:

    Pritzker’s office and the Illinois EPA have said state law limits the power they have to deny or write a permit for General Iron. For instance, numerous citations written by city of Chicago inspectors for violations of pollution and nuisance laws won’t be considered

    Then what in the world DOES the law allow them to take into consideration?

    – MrJM

  2. - Donnie Elgin - Wednesday, Jun 24, 20 @ 3:47 pm:

    “No injuries were reported in the explosion and fire, and General Iron officials said they are investigating the cause of the blast, “including potential sabotage.”

  3. - SAP - Wednesday, Jun 24, 20 @ 4:00 pm:

    Jeez, it’s not like they will emit ethylene oxide. /s

  4. - All this - Wednesday, Jun 24, 20 @ 4:23 pm:

    Poor General Iron. People want things to be recycled but don’t want the recycling in their back yard.

  5. - Morningstar - Wednesday, Jun 24, 20 @ 4:27 pm:

    It might “exasperate” some residents, but I think the Sun Times writer meant to say this move could “exacerbate” health issues.

  6. - Lucky Pierre - Wednesday, Jun 24, 20 @ 4:55 pm:

    Keep it up and General Iron will forget about moving to the South Side and move further south into Indiana.

  7. - Latina - Wednesday, Jun 24, 20 @ 6:42 pm:

    Minorities lives don’t matter to Pritzker, remember ” the least offensive “.

  8. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jun 24, 20 @ 6:45 pm:

    === Minorities lives don’t matter to Pritzker===

    lol, ok, you go with that.

    Do you feel fetter after typing it, drive-by silly isn’t a position

  9. - Blue Dog Dem - Wednesday, Jun 24, 20 @ 7:37 pm:

    Governors own their decisions.

  10. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jun 24, 20 @ 7:49 pm:

    === Governors own their decisions.===

    Narrator: no decision has been made.

  11. - Clear Skies - Wednesday, Jun 24, 20 @ 8:13 pm:

    I grew up on the East Side. Back then you had 3 steel mills running 24/7 in that area. Now they are worried about this? We survived just fine

  12. - 17% Solution - Thursday, Jun 25, 20 @ 7:28 am:

    ==We survived just fine.==

    Well, you don’t know you won’t get something later. Cancer is sneaky like that.

    The explosions are unfortunate, but aren’t business as usual and might not ever happen again. Alderman Hopkins just doesn’t want General Iron to be there and will use any excuse to push them out.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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