Durbin Pushes For Protection Against Harmful Pollution In East Chicago

WASHINGTON – Following a recent Chicago Tribune article, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today pressed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and SunCoke Energy to address SunCoke Energy’s Indiana Harbor coke-making facility’s violations and contributions to Chicago’s air pollution.  Indiana Harbor has been cited by the EPA six times since 2010 for violations including high levels of sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and lead.  Yet, the EPA has not yet taken action against Indiana Harbor Coke Co. in response to these continued violations.  

“It is clear that these emissions violations can lead to serious health and environmental problems for the 100,000 people who live within a five-mile radius of the coke plant, as well as surrounding communities in both Indiana and Illinois,” said Durbin.  “The EPA must use its authority to limit exposure to these emissions and enforce the Clean Air Act, while SunCoke Energy has a responsibility to strengthen their efforts to better protect their neighbors.”

Exposure to particulate matter 10 micrometers or less in these emissions has been associated with respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including cardiovascular disease, asthma complications, chronic bronchitis, decreased lung function, and increased risk of heart attack.   Lead is a potent toxin that adversely effects the nervous system, immune system, reproductive system, blood levels, and cognition.

In the letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Durbin urged the EPA to exercise its authorities to limit exposure to these emission by ensuring that SunCoke Energy’s Indiana Harbor coke-making facility is complying with Clean Air Act regulations—including the National Ambient Air Quality Standards—and mitigating any potential health and safety issues. 

In the letter to Frederick Henderson, Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of SunCoke Energy, Durbin asked what SunCoke Energy is doing to address the numerous complaints and citations from the EPA, and how these efforts can be strengthened to better protect the public.  

In July, Durbin pressed the EPA to address petroleum coke (pet coke) pollution concerns in Southeast Chicago.  In 2015, Durbin joined Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) to introduce legislation – the Petroleum Coke Transparency and Public Health Act – to address the concerns of pet coke on a national level and open the door for federal environmental safety regulations on the tar sands byproduct.

Full text of the letter to the EPA is available here.  Full text of the letter to SunCoke Energy is available here.