May 15, 2023
Gary, IN. – Today, the Gary Advocates for Responsible Development (GARD), represented by the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), re-filed a complaint today with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of External Civil Rights Compliance, asserting that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it renewed the permit for Maya Energy to build and operate a waste processing facility near the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Glen Park and across the street from a K-12 school.
GARD is requesting that EPA order IDEM to revoke the permit and conduct the requisite environmental justice analysis to determine whether the facility should be sited in this Gary community that’s already overburdened with harmful pollution. GARD also requested that IDEM create and implement a permitting policy that complies with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and incorporates environmental justice concerns into its permitting decisions on an ongoing basis.
“Gary and neighboring North Lake County communities have served as a ‘sacrifice zone’ and a dumping ground for far too long,” said Kimmie Gordon, GARD member. “We are a largely minority community and one of the most polluted areas in the country. We are simply asking IDEM to do its job as required by law and analyze the cumulative impact that new facilities will have on pollution levels in our community before granting permits. If that analysis shows that a company’s facility will add significantly to existing pollution levels, it should be denied.”
“We are a largely minority community and one of the most polluted areas in the country. We are simply asking IDEM to do its job as required by law and analyze the cumulative impact that new facilities will have on pollution levels in our community before granting permits.”
– Kimmie Gordon, GARD Member
Maya Energy proposes to build a waste processing facility that each day would handle up to 2,200 tons of household garbage and construction debris six days a week on West 35th Street, across the street from the Steel City Academy charter school. The diesel trucks carrying waste to the facility would increase the air pollution burden on residents already living in an area classified by the U.S. EPA as “ozone non-attainment,” which means air pollution there is at an unhealthy level.
“U.S. EPA cannot allow IDEM to continue ignoring its responsibilities under the federal civil rights laws,” said Howard Learner, ELPC Executive Director. “The U.S. EPA should accept and pursue this important complaint, consistent with the Biden administration’s high-level commitment to seriously addressing Environmental Justice issues. This complaint could have national implications if other state environmental agencies are failing to fully address EJ concerns with permit applications.”
GARD initially appealed IDEM’s permit renewal for Maya Energy on its own, and IDEM’s Office of Environmental Adjudication found “no statutes or regulations authorizing IDEM to deny a permit based solely on environmental justice concerns.”
However, U.S. EPA’s Region 5 Director of Air & Radiation said in a letter to IDEM last year: “EPA has determined that the proposed location of the facility raises potential environmental justice concerns … and siting of this facility may raise civil rights concerns. It is important, therefore, that IDEM assess its obligations under civil rights laws and policies.”
“It is no small coincidence that Gary is a predominantly non-white city and is home to the largest concentration of industrial pollution in the state,” said Mike Zoeller, ELPC Senior Attorney. “While IDEM may not have intended to create the disproportionate amount of industry and resulting pollution in Gary, the Civil Rights Act requires the state agency to consider the discriminatory effects of its permitting decisions to avoid the kind of disparities that exist today.”