Judge's ruling delays Sterigenics' reopening
Hinsdale and other towns allowed to join lawsuit as legislators work to pass a new bill to protect residents
Last updated 8/1/2019 at 9:03am | View PDF
Municipal and state officials are working to make sure the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook will not emit ethylene oxide again.
Hinsdale, Burr Ridge, Darien and Willowbrook have a month to try to stop the plant from re-opening. DuPage County 18th Circuit Court Judge Paul Fullerton on July 24 granted the village’s motion to intervene to become party to a lawsuit the Illinois Attorney General filed against Sterigenics in October 2018.
“This is a significant achievement,” a village press release states.
The towns now must prepare a joint brief outlining their arguments against a consent order filed by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin that would lift the seal order and provide an avenue for the company to conditionally resume ethylene oxide sterilization processes.
“Since the issue was brought to the village’s attention in August 2018, the Village of Hinsdale has been working diligently with federal, state and local officials to advocate on behalf of Hinsdale residents,” Trustee Luke Stifflear stated in the release.
Raoul and Berlin did not object to the motion to intervene, but they argue that a literal reading of Senate Bill 1852 — known as the Matt Haller Act and signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in June — allows Sterigenics to continue to operate in the state. The act, named for 45-year-old Matt Haller who lived near Sterigenics and died in March from stomach cancer, prohibits ethylene oxide sterilization facilities from operating in Illinois unless they capture 100 percent of ethylene oxide emissions and reduce those emissions to 0.2 parts per million. It also prevents companies currently under a seal order from using ethylene oxide in their sterilization process in the future unless certain conditions are met.
In Springfield, state Sen. Jim Curran (R-41, Woodridge) filed legislation Tuesday that would create a total ban of emissions of ethylene oxide in most manufacturing processes aside from medical supply sterilization by 2021, then entirely by 2022. The bill is more aggressive than the Matt Haller Act, which was the “best bill I could pass at the time,” Curran said.
Public outcry over the proposed consent order, combined with recent public statements from Pritzker, could create a new political reality to pave the way for an outright ban, Curran said.
Earlier this month, Pritzker said in a statement that he would sign any measure “up to and including a ban, on the use of ethylene oxide in the state of Illinois,” and, if House Leader Jim Durkin requested it, call a special legislative session to discuss new ethylene oxide legislation.
Curran, Durkin and state Rep. Deanne Mazzochi (R-47, Westmont) also have filed an amicus brief contesting the consent order. The next hearing in the case is set for Sept. 6.
“Federal legislators, state legislators, local leaders and the community rightfully objected to the consent order, and they’re outraged,” Mazzochi stated in a release. “Our community has heard a lot of excuses about it, including one from the governor who opined that we three legislators who represent the surrounding area don’t understand the law we worked tirelessly to write and pass.
“On Sept. 6, our communities can finally have their day in court,” she asserted, “which they should have had all along before the attorney general decided to strip that power away from them for a paltry $300,000 penalty and an admonition to sin no more.”
— Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois contributed to this story.