In a bid to deter environmental hazards like April's botched smokestack demolition that covered Little Village in a plume of dust, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has introduced an ordinance that would significantly hike the fines the city could levy against air pollution offenses.
The current maximum penalty for air pollution violations by large industrial facilities is $5,000. The proposed ordinance, put forward at Wednesday's City Council meeting, would increase the maximum to $10,000 for a first offense, $15,000 for a second offense and $20,000 for subsequent offenses. For "egregious" violations that involve "visible emissions, prohibited air pollution or improper handling of material that can become windborne," the fine can go up to $50,000.
The proposed ordinance also spells out additional penalties for permit irregularities and for contractors that demolish large commercial buildings without keeping the dust under control.
"We need strong enforcement tools to hold companies accountable,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “This ordinance takes a big step forward in the effort to ensure accountability and deterrence for environmental violations in Chicago.”
Hilco Redevelopment Partners, owners of the Little Village property where the implosion went awry in the spring, was socked with 16 citations from the city totaling $68,000 in fines. In November, Hilco and its contractors settled a lawsuit filed by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, agreeing to pay $370,000 in damages.