Trump and Rauner administrations knew about Sterigenics cancer risks months before telling public

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration knew in December that toxic air pollution from the Sterigenics plant in west suburban Willowbrook likely was responsible for some of the highest cancer risks in the nation, according to a letter obtained by the Tribune.

The governor’s office and the Rauner-led Illinois Environmental Protection Agency kept the politically explosive information from the public for eight months, then initially downplayed the dangers posed by a company owned in part by the incumbent Republican’s former private equity firm.

Disclosure of the previously unknown warning about Sterigenics comes as angry and frightened neighbors vow to pack a hearing Friday in the Loop called by state lawmakers who are scrambling to respond to health dangers in a swath of suburban Chicago that also is a key battleground in the Nov. 6 election.

Other records obtained by the Tribune show the Rauner administration worked behind the scenes with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency between December and August on a more intensive investigation of Sterigenics and discussed potential solutions to the company’s pollution problems.

“This is not an emergency,” Rauner told reporters following an unrelated Aug. 28 event. “My understanding is that particular company has followed all the regulations and the proper procedures.”

Rauner appointees later refused to provide key documents about the Willowbrook facility to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, required the state’s chief lawyer to request the records under the Freedom of Information Act and delayed providing the information until after the Tribune inquired about the dispute on Sept. 20.

Less than two weeks later, with fellow Republicans in DuPage County, both of the state’s U.S. senators and Democratic gubernatorial challenger J.B. Pritzker clamoring for more aggressive action, Rauner joined a chorus of politicians demanding that Sterigenics cease operations unless the company can prove its pollution no longer increases the risk of developing cancer.

The company is still operating.

Rauner has said he no longer has a stake in Sterigenics, contrary to his most recent statement of economic interests. Spokespeople for his campaign and government office told the Tribune that Rauner sold his interest as part of a 2015 deal but have not produced documents showing the transaction took place.

Twitter: @scribeguy


Trump, Rauner have the power to shut down a toxic Willowbrook plant. Will they use it? »

Chemical industry bought TV ads to thank Rep. Peter Roskam just before Sterigenics became hot issue »

Rauner EPA withholds Sterigenics records from attorney general until local Republicans intervene »

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Region: DuPage,Local,Region: Suburbs

via Clarendon Hills News – The Doings Clarendon Hills

October 26, 2018 at 09:27AM

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