Southside Recycling and the parent company of the now-defunct General Iron have filed a lawsuit asking the courts to order the city of Chicago to issue the final permit needed for the metal scrapper to operate its facility on the Southeast Side.
The suit, which also names Chicago public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, argues that Southside Recycling and its parent company Reserve Management Group have “fully complied — and then some — with every City requirement necessary to be granted an operating permit.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot most recently delayed the final permit following a request from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan to first conduct an environmental justice assessment of the “aggregate potential health effects” of the proposed shredding operation.
Southside Recycling, which has invested $80 million in its facility at 11600 S. Burley Ave., said in its lawsuit that the city has backtracked on a 2019 agreement in which it promised to “cooperate in an efficient and expeditious transition” of the scrapping operation from Lincoln Park to the Southeast Side.
“Yet, when it came time for the City to follow its own rules and promises, and to award the permit to SR (Southside Recycling), the City chose to avoid, delay, and suspend its review of SR’s permit application,” the suit claims.
In a statement, Lightfoot responded: “Throughout its review of this complicated matter, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) has engaged in a thoughtful, data-driven and robust process that took into consideration the application, supplemental materials, expert reports and studies, as well as input from residents who will be most directly impacted by RMG’s proposed new use. Given the recent directive from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we must work with them to conduct a further analysis of potential adverse environmental impacts. Because this matter is now being litigated, we will have no further comment.”
CDPH declined to comment.
Environmental justice advocates have fought the scrapping operation’s relocation to the Southeast Side since it was announced.
The lawsuit counters: “Recycling obsolete metal contributes to environmental sustainability by reusing resources instead of discarding metal waste in landfills, and it conserves energy and natural resources.”
Southside Recycling asserts that, currently, a portion of metal recycling is being diverted to Sims Metal in Pilsen for shredding, creating an undue burden on that community.
The suit also requests compensation from the city of $100 million for lost profits and other damages.
Heather Cherone contributed to this report.
Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the amount of recycling diverted to Sims Metal in Pilsen. The story has been updated.