This Chicago heist tests Michael Regan on environmental justice
Michael Regan spoke of a big game on “environmental justice” before taking up his post as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA. Now he’s trying to walk.
Regan informed Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday that he had serious concerns about a proposed junkyard for a community in the city. South-east side, which is infamous for its toxic pollution. In a letter to Lightfoot, Regan said the junkyard “raised significant civil rights concerns.”
âSubstantial data indicates that current conditions on the southeast side of Chicago epitomize the problem of environmental injustice, resulting from more than half a century of past actions,â said Regan. âThis neighborhood currently ranks at the highest levels for many pollution indicators.â
He asked the city to carry out a health impact assessment of the proposed shredding operation, including a “robust analysis” of the air quality data “to significantly consider the potential effects. Global Health ‘on residents compared to their fellow Chicagoans in other parts of the city.
Following the letter, Mayor Lightfoot has suspended the city’s clearance process for the scrapyard until a pollution assessment can be completed. âThe City shares the United States EPA’s commitment to environmental justice and public health, and we look forward to partnering with them to conduct a fair, in-depth and comprehensive health impact assessment. timely to inform our future decision-making, âLightfoot said in a response letter.
The junkyard made international headlines after the Illinois state EPA approved a key permit for the junkyard, even though it is owned by a company. subject to a federal consent decree and is moving its polluting operations from a predominantly white and wealthy neighborhood on the north side of Chicago to the predominantly low-income, Latin American southeast side.
While Regan’s intervention has been well received by local activists who have long opposed the heist, they say there is still a long way to go. Chicago City Council Member Byron Sigcho-Lopez said Regan’s support shows the value of federal and local government collaboration, but stronger local leadership is needed to tackle environmental issues .
“We are grateful to the Biden administration and the EPA for allowing the community to have due process, but that due process will not end until the permit is denied,” Sigcho said. Lopez at a press conference Monday. âLet us remember that communities like Pilsen and Little Village have been victims of racism and environmental violence for decades.â
The Lightfoot administration has made it clear that the heist, which has sparked widespread protests and a month-long hunger strike, is not being fully abandoned – just indefinitely on hold – which is worrying activists in Chicago.
Yessenia Chavez, another speaker at Monday’s press conference, urged Lightfoot to continue the health assessment for the benefit of the entire south side of town – and ultimately to ‘do the right thing’ by denying the permit to the breakage.
âThis is a huge accomplishment for the South Side community and the communities that stand in solidarity with us across the city of Chicago, the country and internationally as well,â said Chavez, a former hunger striker, during the press conference. âBut, in this situation, I would like people to also think about that, ultimately, if this permit is granted, an entire community and an entire city will be affected by particulates and pollution.â
âWe need the city to invest in our communities, rather than continually investing in industries that contaminate our environment,â Oscar Sanchez, another former hunger striker, said at the press conference. “This is our home.â¦ It is a land built by generations, it is the land that nourishes us – it is our home.”