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Chicago, IL- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is diligently working with the state to secure the promise that MAT Asphalt is operating within safe and legal jurisdiction. The asphalt plant is located on Pershing Road across from McKinley Park in Chicago.
The EPA is heavily urging the Joe Biden administration to reduce pollution in minority neighborhoods. Cheryl Newton, EPA’s regional administrator, noted that McKinley Park contains a largely Latino population and that such environmental justice concerns are correlated to low-income residential areas. Newton ensures that the EPA will hold the asphalt plant liable if any safety policies or public concerns are violated. Matters involving health impacts and environmental integrity will be regulated and addressed.
MAT Asphalt has been under a state-issued construction permit since 2017. Acquiring a full-time operating permit will be required for the state agency however, these processes have been postponed due to the pandemic.
In late June of this year, Senator Tammy Duckworth and Representatives Jesus Garcia and Marie Newman, asked Biden’s EPA Administrator Michael Regan, to aid in providing supervision of the asphalt plant. Health impact analyses and air monitoring have been requested as well as a result of the 100+ odor complaints issued by residents during the past three years. The plant directly neighbors two schools and a local park.
Owners claim that the complaints are exaggerated and that the work administered by the plant is essential in allowing the city and its citizens to prosper. Lawmakers in contrast, note the damaging effects of pollution on an already burdened community.
Chicago’s City Hall holds mixed opinions regarding the value of MAT Asphalt. Although the plant’s location and production of asphalt is heavily praised by city planners, housing commissioner Marisa Novara sees a different perspective. Novara’s proposal on constructing low income housing next to the plant was halted due to potential health hazards.
A consultant for MAT Asphalt suggested that the plant move just several hundreds of feet from its current location at a price tag of nearly $32 million. City planners immediately denied the motion considering that no public funding is available to sufficiently cover the costs. Employees of the plant have also remarked that there are no locations in which the plant could move and operate within the city without creating the same community apprehension.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raou is the latest government official to weigh in on the years-old controversy surrounding the opening of MAT Asphalt near McKinley Park. The US Environmental Protection Agency recently stated that it is testing, monitoring, and assisting state officials with future permitting for the plant.
Raoul’s office stated earlier this week that the attorney general was concerned about more than 100 complaints about MAT odors and noted that McKinley Park, which is home to a sizable Latino and Asian population, is a “environmental justice” community already plagued by pollution and health threats.
Michael Tadin Jr., a city contractor and co-owner of the asphalt operation has provided a 2020 memo from a consultant he hired stating that the source of the odors could be secondary. According to the memo, a sampling of the odor complaints indicated that they “could reasonably be argued are not the result of MAT Asphalt operations.”
Tadin also recently has been the eye of attention after receiving City Council approved $9.8 million tax break for an already-completed development — which is owned by a wealthy Chicago family and one of the world’s largest corporations.
Cook County’s Class 6b tax incentives are designed to encourage industrial development on vacant land or the rehabilitation of existing buildings. City officials argue that the tax breaks are justified by the economic benefits the development will bring, such as new jobs and a bolstered tax base.
However, a proposal to grant a 12-year property tax abatement to an already completed building in Back of the Yards, the majority of which is leased, sparked controversy at City Hall this week before being approved.
Marina Crossing JV, a joint venture between the powerful Tadin family and the investment arm of banking giant JP Morgan, constructed a $32 million, 633,057-square-foot warehouse at 2075 W. 43rd St. on previously tax-exempt railroad land.
It was completed in 2019, creating 300 temporary construction jobs and 64 full-time jobs, and is already 69 percent leased, officials said last week during a meeting of the Committee on Economic and Capital Development.
The warehouse is located just south of MAT Asphalt, a controversial asphalt plant co-owned by Michael Tadin Jr. that neighbors claim pollutes adjacent McKinley Park. Additionally, he is the owner of MT Transit and Morgan Street Development.