Illinois EPA Review and Public Comment
In April 2011, Indiana Recycling and Renewable Fuels (“IRRF”) submitted new applications to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to construct a solid waste management facility at 1301 South State Street in Chicago Heights, Illinois.
The solid waste management facility would accept municipal solid waste from offsite and process the material into a refuse derived fuel by sorting, separation and grinding.
The facility must obtain a development permit from the Illinois EPA’s Bureau of Land (BOL) and a construction permit from the Illinois EPA’s Bureau of Air (BOA) prior to beginning construction of the facility. A revised BOA application was received on July 14, 2011 and corrects inconsistencies within the previous complete application received in April and replaces all previous submittals.
The Illinois EPA has reviewed the BOL and BOA applications and has opened a public comment period to accept written comments on the proposed solid waste management facility and the associated permit applications. The Illinois EPA will also be holding an availability session during the comment period to answer questions from the public about the applications and Illinois EPA’s review process.
Written comments should be postmarked by September 8, 2011 and sent to:
1021 North Grand Avenue, East
PO Box 19506
Springfield, IL 62794-9506
The Illinois EPA will hold an availability session on August 9, 2011 at the Chicago Heights Public Library, 25 West 15th Street in Chicago Heights. Illinois EPA staff and the company will be available between 6:00 pm and 7:45 pm to answer questions from the public about the project and the Illinois EPA review. Written comments will be accepted during the availability session.
The Illinois EPA originally received applications from IRRF in October 2009 to build a solid waste management facility. In that application, the company had requested permits to create a bio-oil and bio-char fuel from municipal solid waste. The bio-char would have been sold to other facilities to be used as a fuel and the bio-oil would have been burned in the facility’s boilers. Prior to submitting the applications, the facility had been sited by Chicago Heights to operate as a solid waste transfer station and treatment facility. In reviewing the applications, the Illinois EPA made a determination that burning of the bio-oil would be considered incineration under Illinois’ environmental regulations. The facility had not been sited by Chicago Heights as an incinerator. Because of this, the Illinois EPA rejected the permit applications in November 2009.
Also in November 2009, the Chicago Legal Clinic, Inc., acting on behalf of South Suburban Citizens Opposed to Polluting Our Environment (SS-COPE), requested that the Illinois EPA hold a public hearing and conduct an environmental justice analysis for the project. With the subsequent revision to the application in 2011, reducing the scope of the project to waste processing without burning of the resulting material, Chicago Legal Clinic in a letter dated June 14, 2011, modified its request to allow for a public meeting and written comment period for the project rather than a public hearing.
The facility is located in an area that is predominately low income and minority, which gives rise to Environmental Justice concerns. The Illinois EPA defines the term "Environmental Justice” as follows:
"Environmental Justice" is based on the principle that all people should be protected from environmental pollution and have the right to a clean and healthy environment. Environmental justice is the protection of the health of the people of Illinois and its environment, equity in the administration of the State's environmental programs, and the provision of adequate opportunities for meaningful involvement of all people with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
The definition of Environmental Justice (“EJ”) as well as additional information concerning the topic can be found in the Illinois EPA’s
Environmental Justice Policy. Enhanced public participation is an important part of the Illinois EPA’s EJ program. On November 13, 2009, the Illinois EPA received a letter from the Chicago Legal Clinic on behalf of South Suburban Citizens Opposed to Polluting Our Environment (SS-COPE) requesting an EJ analysis and a public hearing. As discussed above, at the time, the facility had applied for a permit to conduct biochar operations.
On June 14, 2011, the Illinois EPA received a renewed request for an EJ analysis and public meeting from SS-COPE in light of IRRF’s revisions to the scope of the project (i.e., dropping the biochar portion of the project at this stage pending resolution of siting issues). Per the Illinois EPA’s
EJ Public Participation Policy and the Illinois Environmental Protection Act (“Act”) (415 ILCS 5), a public hearing is not required. However, given significant public interest and in consideration of SS-COPE’s EJ concerns, the Illinois EPA elected to hold a public availability session and accept written comments. The Illinois EPA also anticipates responding to written comments via this webpage.
Prior to submitting applications to the Illinois EPA, the facility was required to obtain siting approval from Chicago Heights. Illinois law requires local governments to follow a siting review process when considering proposals for facilities that commercially manage waste-including waste storage sites, sanitary landfills, waste disposal sites, waste transfer stations, waste treatment facilities, and waste incinerators. Unlike the Illinois EPA’s permit review process which addresses the applicability of state and federal environmental regulations to the facility, local siting approval can address off-site impacts such as truck traffic, noise, lighting, property valuation, etc. Chicago Heights granted siting for the project as a solid waste transfer station and treatment facility in May 2009. The siting documents may be found in Appendix B of the Bureau of Land Development Permit Application.
Illinois EPA Documents: