CHICAGO — A permit for General Iron to move a facility to Chicago’s Southeast Side has been delayed indefinitely pending the results of a new study on the facility’s environmental impact.
The announcement is a win for numerous activists and organizers, with many saying it’s not fair or safe to move the facility from a white community to a Black and Brown community.
“When you take a company that has a terrible track record from a predominantly white and wealthy community to a community that is majority Latino and Black, then you’re sending a strong message that you value certain people over others,” Olga Bautista said.
Bautista is a member of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, who organized against General Iron’s move to the Southeast Side.
General Iron closed its operation in Lincoln Park last December before Reserve Management Group announced it would open a scrap shredder on the Southeast Side, near a predominantly Latino neighborhood.
“Because of these well-known degraded environmental conditions, the siting of this facility in Chicago’s Southeast Side has raised significant civil rights concerns,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement.
“I think the community is feeling like they’re being listened to, and it is a shame that it took a hunger strike and this permit to get so close to approval for action to happen,” Bautista said.
The EPA officials stated that previous public comments submitted by the prior administration during the state permitting process don’t reflect the current priorities and policies of the EPA today.
“Our Region 5 office has already initiated an analysis of ambient air quality data and a comparison of that data with similar data from other Chicago communities. We believe it is prudent for the city to delay a decision on the pending permit until such an analysis can be conducted,” the EPA said in their statement.
Bautista said this is a victory, but there is still so much more work to do.
“Until we have the right policies in Chicago, we are all getting ready, taking this moment to catch our breaths and getting ready to work with the city to stop any companies trying to move in that don’t have our health in mind,” Bautista said.
Southside Recycling released a statement Saturday night, saying:
“The Illinois EPA and the City of Chicago have independently reviewed the cumulative air quality modeling that has already been performed, validated the findings, and concluded that even when the existing air quality was considered, the new Southside Recycling facility will meet or exceed all applicable environmental and health standards. Southside Recycling is subject to likely the most stringent set of federal, state, and local regulations of any metal recycling operation in the country.
The advanced pollution control system at Southside Recycling is creating a new industry standard that will serve as a national model for capturing and controlling emissions from large recycling facilities. The U.S. EPA knows this is in stark contrast to other metal shredders, including the only other one in Chicago that continues to operate in Pilsen but has none of the air pollution controls and enclosures that Southside Recycling has. Delaying Southside Recycling’s permit will only exacerbate the environmental justice burden in Pilsen. And, after carefully reviewing the charges of environmental racism, a federal judge concluded there was no evidence to support the baseless allegations.”