City Council Poised to Vote on New Rules for Industrial Developments in Effort to Reduce Air Pollution

The Chicago City Council is poised to vote Wednesday on a revised measure designed to tighten regulations on recycling centers and industrial operations in an effort to reduce air pollution on the South and West sides.

But an interview with “Chicago Tonight” made it clear that some aldermen are sharply divided on the issue, with Alds. George Cardenas. (12th Ward) and Jason Ervin (28th Ward) praising the measure backed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot as a good first step, while Alds. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th Ward) and Maria Hadden (49th Ward) said it was reform in name only.

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Cardenas said the measure was “a long time coming.”

“We cannot continue with the status quo,” he said.

Hadden said she agreed that it was “long past time” for the city to address air pollution but that the measure set for a final vote Wednesday will be ineffective.

The measure should require shipping and logistics warehouses to obtain a special-use permit as the original measure required, Hadden said. However, that provision was removed after discussions with the mayor’s office, and prompted several environmental organizations including the Illinois Environmental Council to withdraw their support.

“Sometimes passing something is worse than passing nothing at all,” Hadden said.

Lightfoot first introduced the proposal in July, but aldermen balked at approving it October amid criticism from all sides. While some aldermen said they were concerned that onerous environmental regulations would discourage companies from creating jobs in Chicago, others said the rules would not do enough to improve the quality of air on the South and West sides, which is significantly worse than in other areas of the city.

Although Lightfoot’s original proposal would have required industrial developments to win the approval of the Zoning Board of Appeals, the revised measure would require the city’s transportation and public health departments to sign off on the plans after a review that would include a traffic study designed to gauge emissions and other sources of pollution.

Aldermen are also set to take a final vote on a measure that would require property owners and developers who want to demolish existing buildings in Pilsen and near the 606 Bloomingdale Trail to pay a fee of up to $15,000 that would be used to fund affordable housing projects across the city.

Sigcho-Lopez, whose ward includes Pilsen, said the measure was needed to prevent residents from being displaced from their longtime homes.

“We have a lot of work to do to make sure we protect the social fabric of our neighborhoods,” Sigcho-Lopez said.

Cardenas said he did not believe that a $15,000 fee would make any difference but was willing to try to find a solution.

Also up for a vote is a measure to allow the city to expand the number of banks authorized to hold its cash — even as city officials vowed to keep pressuring financial institutions to do a better job lending to Black and Latino Chicagoans.

The city should do more to use its leverage to help Chicagoans and combat systemic racism, Hadden said.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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