12 May 2021

City of Chicago Complies With EPA Request to Suspend Permit Review

On May 7, 2021, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan wrote the mayor of Chicago, suggesting that the city suspend a decision on a permit seeking to expand a metal recycling plant in Chicago’s southeast side until a full environmental justice (EJ) analysis is conducted. Administrator Regan’s action is consistent with his comments during the first meeting of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (discussed here), in which Regan outlined EPA’s intention to use Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to advance EJ concerns in connection with facility siting decisions.

Noting that the EPA’s comments on the state permitting process under the prior administration are inadequate and do not reflect the EPA’s current priorities and policies, Administrator Regan suggested that before “reaching a decision on the permit,” Chicago should “complete an environmental justice analysis, such as a Health Impact Assessment, to meaningfully consider the aggregate potential health effects” of the proposed facility. On the same day, Mayor Lori Lightfoot agreed to suspend review of the permit and direct the Chicago Department of Public Health to initiate an environmental study recommended by the U.S. EPA.

This is one of several projects requiring permit approval that the administration is scrutinizing for EJ concerns.