House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs)
The Illinois House of Representatives' Energy and Environment Committee recently heard testimony regarding the regulation of ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions and this year's earlier closing of the Sterigenics medical-device sterilization plant in Willowbrook.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) said the Sterigenics issue forced him to look into the home-rule authority and that's why he sponsored House Bill 3885, which allows local municipalities to ban emissions of EtO.
"We’re seeing more of this nationwide," Durkin said. "Emissions were high and dangerous and a health report showed a cancer cluster that pushed me over the edge. We have to be doing more. Our highest priority is to make sure our citizens are safe."
Durkin said that EtO plays a role in sterilization and is a component used in manufacturing, but he suggested that alternatives must be looked into that can provide the same level of sterilization.
"This is a chemical that is complex and still an evolving issue for some of us," the GOP Leader said. "It's highly toxic. How it's used and contained is something we’re grappling with."
Durkin's bill does not address hospitals, which use EtO to an extent. He said he was only looking at EO from a backyard perspective.
State Sen. John Curran (R-Downers Grove) supports Durkin's bill, saying that companies should be compelled to be better corporate citizens.
"I really believe empowering local home-rule communities would be a major step forward," Curran said. "The Illinois EPA showed if you arm them with the appropriate facts that they will act to protect the public’s interest."
Deputy Gov. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) said that Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker was willing to sign both House Bill 3885 and House Bill 3888, which would make it so that sterilization companies could not use EtO within five miles of a certain population level by 2021.
"The Pritzker administration took the strongest possible course of action to prevent the [Sterigenics] plant from using EtO," Mitchell said. "He would be pleased to sign one or both of these into law."
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director John Kim said the U.S. EPA was years behind in addressing EtO.
"The rules should be put forward in a manner that is consistent with what we've done here in Illinois," Kim said.
Several spoke up in opposition of the bills, including Donovan Griffith, the director for government affairs at the Illinois Manufacturers' Association.
"We oppose a ban on EtO," Griffith said. "Some can say there are other methods but that doesn’t mean they are compatible. EtO has a 100-percent record."