Trump’s EPA Stalls on Policing Southeast Side Polluters, Residents Urge Mayor Emanuel to Step Up

As Trump’s EPA delays enforcement on air pollution violations in Chicago’s Southeast Side, community and environmental groups have penned a letter urging Mayor Rahm Emanuel to step in to protect residents from neurotoxic manganese near neighborhoods and schools. The letter also calls on the mayor to address cumulative health burdens from industry concentrated in residential communities across the city.

In August, the USEPA issued a Notice of Violation to S.H. Bell, which operates a facility that handles neurotoxic manganese feet away from homes of residents, for numerous emissions violations. However, USEPA has announced no subsequent action to hold the company accountable. Currently, another nearby facility that handles manganese, operated by Watco Transloading, is resisting installing air monitors required under the City’s regulations and recommended by the USEPA.

Residents are concerned that leadership in Trump’s EPA is failing to take appropriate action to protect the community, and are asking the Mayor – who has recently made headlines for hosting an international climate summit and threatening a lawsuit against U.S. Steel for polluting Lake Michigan –  to demonstrate the same environmental leadership for an area of the City that has long suffered the cumulative threats from polluting industries.  

Following is a joint statement from the Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke (SSCBP), the Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF), Moms Clean Air Force (MCAF), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Northwestern Pritzker Law's Environmental Advocacy Clinic, Chicago Legal Clinic, The People’s Lobby, National Nurses United (NNU), and Reclaim Chicago:

“As Trump’s EPA holds back action on polluters, the City’s role is more important than ever in upholding protections for our community’s health. We urge the Mayor to show the same leadership and concern for the health of Chicagoans when he threatened to sue U.S. Steel and demand that manganese, another toxic product associated with the steel industry, be banned from our neighborhoods.

“Moreover, the Southeast Side community must be the leading voice in developing a lasting plan that puts an end to polluting industries that have been allowed to accumulate in the Southeast Side, and encourages cleaner and more resilient economic development in our community.

“Every level of government should put people over polluters on the Southeast Side. This is not happening right now.”


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) 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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