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Press Release

Clean Air Wins! Agreement Will Slash Diesel Pollution as Part of Englewood Rail Yard Expansion

September 19, 2013
Contact: David Jakubiak, (312) 795-3713, [email protected] 

Sustainable Englewood Initiatives, Northwestern University School of Law Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Environmental Advocacy Center, Environmental Law & Policy Center and Respiratory Health Association Strike Deal with the City of Chicago and Norfolk Southern Railroad

CHICAGO – Englewood residents and advocates concerned about diesel pollution from a proposed rail yard expansion welcomed an agreement Thursday which will cut pollution, bring new green space to Englewood, sponsor sustainability efforts and bring job training in the neighborhood.

The agreement, reached through discussions with the City of Chicago and Norfolk Southern, will require:

  • Thirty six of 38 trucks that move trailers around the yard to have cutting-edge pollution controls by 2018
  • Immediate upgrading of a dozen pieces of lift equipment used in the yard to have clean engines or diesel filters
  • Continued efforts by the City to address truck congestion that increases idling around the yard
  • A $1 million fund, sponsored by Norfolk Southern, for sustainability projects in Englewood
  • $1 million for job training and preparedness in Englewood

The agreement will also create a New ERA trail in Englewood. The park will convert elevated rail track to green space as part of a $30 million, 10-year project by the City of Chicago. Norfolk Southern has also agreed to make a contribution towards improvements to landscaping and green space at Sherwood Park in Englewood.

“The priority of Sustainable Englewood Initiatives was to make sure this project would not harm our community’s air and cost us more green space,” said John Paul Jones, Co-Founder of Sustainable Englewood Initiatives. “This agreement will put Englewood on the map as a place where the community stood up, the City listened, and the railroad came to the table to find a better way.”

The Norfolk Southern project will expand an existing rail yard between  47th Street and Garfield Boulevard south to 61st Street, increasing its size almost 85 acres. Sustainable Englewood Initiatives approached the Northwestern University School of Law Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Environmental Advocacy Center and Environmental Law & Policy Center concerned that the project would sacrifice residential and green space, and increase air pollution in a community with one of the nation’s highest asthma rates. According to Respiratory Health Association, diesel pollution leads to over 20,000 asthma attacks, 680 heart attacks and about 570 premature deaths in Illinois each year.

“The city deserves high praise for making this happen.  They understand the burden of asthma that now falls on families in Englewood and that asthma is a key reason for school absences. Children attending schools and daycares that abut the rail yard will now be able to breathe a little easier knowing air pollution will be reduced starting this school year,” said Brian Urbaszewski, Director of Environmental Health Programs for Respiratory Health Association.  “In addition to Chicago’s recent efforts to reduce emissions from diesel construction equipment and in reducing emissions from CTA buses, today’s announcement shows Chicago is becoming a healthier place to live and breathe.”

Nancy Loeb, Director of Northwestern University School of Law Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Environmental Advocacy Center, said the agreement offers a template for neighborhoods across America.

“Across the country there are communities concerned about diesel pollution from expanding rail yards,” Loeb said. “We are thankful the Mayor’s office listened to the people of Englewood, and worked to find a solution that allows economic development without sacrificing public health and environmental quality.”

Faith Bugel, Senior Air Attorney with Environmental Law & Policy Center, said the deal shows that economic development does not have to come at the expense of the environment and public health.

“We commend the City of Chicago for putting together a project that brings economic development and jobs to the City while protecting air quality and the health of Englewood residents,” Bugel said. “The City worked tirelessly with members of the community and Norfolk Southern and the resulting package is testament to that hard work:  reduced diesel pollution from 50 pieces of yard equipment, a new community park, and a $1 million fund for environmental projects in Englewood.”

For more on Sustainable Englewood Initiatives, please visit SustianableEnglewood.org.