City of Chicago Halts Controversial Metal Shredder Permit in response to Community Pressure and EPA Letter

CHICAGO – The Lightfoot administration announced late yesterday that it would stop the permitting process for General Iron, a controversial massive metal shredding operation, pending an environmental justice analysis conducted in partnership with the U.S. EPA. This follows a letter from U.S. EPA Administrator Michael Regan calling on the City to stop permitting and conduct a series of analyses on environmental justice and the impacts to this community compared to the burdens experienced by others in the city. The analysis that the city is conducting could take at least several months to complete.

The decision also follows a federal civil rights investigation into the city’s zoning policies sparked by Southeast Side residents pointing to decades of environmental racism that have led to the accumulation of industrial pollution in the mostly working-class community of color. 

The city’s department of public health and chief sustainability officer are expected to propose an ordinance that will begin to address the cumulative pollution burden of communities where industry is heavily concentrated. Chicago’s environmental justice organizations have been calling for such an ordinance over the past three years. 

Southeast Side residents have organized for years advocating for public health protections from dangerous industrial pollution and recently concluded a one-month hunger strike in an effort to bring attention to the environmental racism that has facilitated industry to continue to accumulate in their neighborhoods.     

The following is a response from Southeast Environmental Task Force, Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke, People for Community Recovery, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Southeast Youth Alliance, United Neighbors of the 10th Ward, Bridges/Puentes, Southeast Side Educators for Environmental Justice, George Washington High School Student Voice Committee, Alliance of the SouthEast: 

“Chicago is filled with communities that are vibrant and full of life, but have suffered from the city’s environmentally racist policies that turn neighborhoods into sacrifice zones. The City must reform policies that have left Southeast Side residents to fend for ourselves as dangerous pollution and industrial facilities continue to be directed towards our homes, schools and parks. 

“It’s past time that the city began addressing the cumulative impacts of pollution on communities of color that are overburdened and include the community in the process of making these zoning policies that have great impacts on our lives.

“Our struggle for environmental justice is a fight against racism and its impacts on our health and communities. As the U.S. EPA has recognized, it’s no longer an option to continue to wait for the segregation and health disparities to deepen, the Lightfoot administration must act now, not just to protect the health of people on the Southeast side, but to protect all Chicagoans. 

“Our health shouldn’t be sacrificed so that industry can make a profit. Our community should receive the same opportunities, resources, and protections that every other community receives across Chicago.”

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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