WBEZ | Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan http://www.wbez.org/tags/illinois-attorney-general-lisa-madigan Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en State, city move to crack down on petcoke in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/state-city-move-crack-down-petcoke-chicago-109412 <p><p dir="ltr">Top Chicago and Illinois officials are hoping new regulations and a legal deal announced on Thursday will crack down on the storage of petroleum coke on the city&rsquo;s Southeast Side.</p><p dir="ltr">Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan say they&rsquo;ve struck an interim legal settlement with Hammond, Ind.-based Beemsterboer, Inc., which has been storing so-called &ldquo;petcoke&rdquo; and other heavy industrial byproducts near residential neighborhoods.</p><p dir="ltr">Petcoke is a dust-like byproduct of the crude oil refinery process. It had been stored in mountainous, black piles along the Calumet River on the Southeast Side until residents began <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/southeast-side-residents-fuming-over-pet-coke-ash-109007">complaining</a> last August of health problems and demanding its removal.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;[They&rsquo;ve] been stored there without really any sufficient protections to prevent that dust from blowing into the nearby residential community, literally covering people&rsquo;s homes, covering their cars, covering their playgrounds - literally covering people when they go outside,&rdquo; Madigan said.</p><p dir="ltr">Additionally, Emanuel on Thursday announced new city regulations that would require large storage facilities to completely cover their piles of petcoke so they aren&rsquo;t windblown into adjacent neighborhoods. Smaller storage sites would simply have to block the piles from the wind.</p><p dir="ltr">Emanuel acknowledged Chicago and Illinois are behind the ball compared to places like Indiana and California, which imposed tougher petcoke regulations years ago.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We didn&rsquo;t do our job, and thank God for community leaders...who spoke up, demanded action, and we&rsquo;re now catching up to where we should have been years ago,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p dir="ltr">But Thursday&rsquo;s actions do not mean the end of petcoke storage on the city&rsquo;s Southeast Side. Much of the material comes from BP&rsquo;s refinery plant in Whiting, Ind., which currently produces 2,000 tons of petcoke per day. A new expansion of the plant will triple that output.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Pet coke.jpg" style="float: right; height: 263px; width: 350px;" title="Southeast Side residents protest pet coke piles. (WBEZ/Michael Puente)" /></div><p dir="ltr">Beemsterboer, Inc. did not immediately return a phone call for comment. Another company that stores petcoke for BP, called KCBX Terminals, is not affected by Thursday&rsquo;s legal settlement but said it is reviewing Emanuel&rsquo;s proposed regulations.</p><p dir="ltr">BP contracts with KCBX Terminals, a firm located on Chicago&rsquo;s Southeast side and owned by the politically connected Koch brothers. The pet coke is trucked from Whiting to KCBX for temporary storage.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;KCBX has handled bulk materials, including petroleum coke, on Chicago&rsquo;s southeast side for more than 20 years,&rdquo; spokesman Jake Reint said in a statement on Thursday. &ldquo;We are committed to doing the right thing and managing our operations in a manner that protects the health and safety of our neighbors.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><div>&nbsp;</div><p dir="ltr">Both companies are also facing suits from private attorneys representing residents who claim their health has been affected by the pet coke.</p><p dir="ltr">Democratic Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin visited the area this week with Democratic U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly. Some in Chicago&rsquo;s City Council have introduced bills calling for an all-out ban on pet coke in the city, but Emanuel rejected that idea on Thursday.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The idea that you can ban it - I&rsquo;m not sure will do the protection that you need to do, and immediately would be thrown out in court and we would be no closer,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, BP&rsquo;s Scott Dean says the company has no plans to stop contracting with KCBX. He says it&rsquo;s up to the company to safely store and contain the material. Dean says BP is encouraged to hear KCBX has installed a $10 million dust suppression system.</p><div><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.&nbsp;Follow WBEZ Northwest Indiana bureau reporter Michael Puente on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@MikePuenteNews</a>&nbsp;and on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/WBEZ-Northwest-Indiana-Bureau/701257506570573">Facebook</a>. &nbsp;</em></div></p> Thu, 19 Dec 2013 13:25:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/state-city-move-crack-down-petcoke-chicago-109412 Attorney General Madigan files lawsuit against Koch brothers’ firm http://www.wbez.org/sections/water/attorney-general-madigan-files-lawsuit-against-koch-brothers%E2%80%99-firm-109079 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP120209138862 (1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Illinois Attorney General&rsquo;s office filed a lawsuit Monday against KCBX Terminal Co. of Chicago, for allegedly releasing pet coke on the city&rsquo;s far Southeast side.</p><p>The suit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court.</p><p>Natalie Bauer, spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, says the lawsuit is intended to get KCBX to keep the dust-like substance from flying into homes and businesses around the Calumet River.</p><p>&ldquo;The piles of refinery waste at this site are growing by the day without the appropriate protections to ensure nearby residents&rsquo; health and safety,&rdquo; Madigan said in a written statement. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s critical that KCBX quickly installs safeguards to protect the surrounding community.&rdquo;</p><p>KCBX Terminals is a subsidary of Koch Industries. The attorney general&#39;s lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which is investigating KCBX and other firms with ties to the company.</p><p>The company is contracted by oil giant BP to store tons of pet coke, a by-product from refining crude oil.&nbsp;Pet coke, short for petroleum coke, is often used as a low cost fuel in overseas markets.&nbsp;</p><p>BP trucks in the pet coke from its refinery in Whiting, Indiana, a short distance from the Southeast side.</p><p>According to the lawsuit, the company receives coal by rail, truck, barge or vessel and stores it in large, uncovered piles on its 90 acre property.</p><p>The coal is believed to be coming from local steel manufacturers. The pet coke and coal ash is virtually indistinguishable from each other but is very ash-like and can float into the air. &nbsp;</p><p>Between December 2012 and last August, KCBX had six 35-foot high water sprinklers to control dust in the southwest portion of the site and one 8,000 gallon water truck to control dust from the pet coke.&nbsp;The attorney general alleges that KCBX &ldquo;threatened or caused&rdquo; emission of dust from the pet coke and coal piles due to unloading and loading of the substance.</p><p>On Aug. 30, &ldquo;a visible cloud of black dust from the petroleum coke and coal located at the site was observed off-site blowing into the surrounding residential neighborhood,&rdquo; the lawsuit states.</p><p>The dust, also known as particulate matter, can get into people&rsquo;s eyes, can be inhaled and threatens human health. The lawsuit orders KCBX to undertake all necessary corrective action to prevent the release of the dust.</p><p>The attorney general says KCBX could be subjected to civil penalties of $50,000 for each violation of pollution laws and an additional penalty of $10,000 a day for each violation.</p><p>KCBX declined comment on the lawsuit filed by Madigan&rsquo;s office but referred to its original statement from last month when residents began to complain about the dust.<br />.<br />&ldquo;KCBX Terminals Co. has handled various bulk products, including pet coke, in Chicago for more than 20 year,&quot; the statement said. &quot;In December of 2012, KCBX acquired the Chicago Fuels Terminal from DTE Energy Co. We are in the final stages of constructing more than $10 million in upgrades, including improvements to the dust suppression capabilities. KCBX puts a priority on regulatory compliance and managing operations in a manner that protects the health and safety of employees, the community, and the environment</p><p>The Attorney General&rsquo;s lawsuit comes on the heals of four Southeast side families filing a lawsuit against KCBX and several other defendants who are owned by Koch Industries or are assisting KCBX with the handling of the pet coke and coal.</p><p>In addition, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency filed a complaint last week against Beemsterboer for failing to cover its own piles of ash and for not filing necessary reports with the state.</p><p>Beemsterboer is based in Hammond, Indiana and has been in business for 70 years, mostly handling steel slag, another byproduct in the steelmaking process that is often used in concrete.</p><p>Beemsterboer officials have not responded to repeated attempts for comment.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ reporter Michael Puente&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews" target="_blank">@MikePuenteNews</a>&nbsp;and on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/WBEZ-Northwest-Indiana-Bureau/701257506570573?ref=br_tf" target="_blank">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 05 Nov 2013 10:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/water/attorney-general-madigan-files-lawsuit-against-koch-brothers%E2%80%99-firm-109079 Advocates ask for quick rulings in gay marriage cases http://www.wbez.org/news/advocates-ask-quick-rulings-gay-marriage-cases-108017 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/doma_shawn.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-23e84928-ca24-11d0-f295-8d4f26b1b71a">Lawyers for 25 Illinois gay couples are asking a Cook County judge to skip a trial and declare the state&rsquo;s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, pointing to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that will grant some federal benefits to legally married gay couples.</p><p dir="ltr">Attorneys for the couples filed a motion for summary judgement on Wednesday, arguing the justices&rsquo; <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/supreme-court-strikes-down-federal-provision-denying-benefits-legally-married-gay-couples">decision</a> to overturn a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last month adds new urgency to their cause.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Illinois is now the only thing standing between these families and the numerous federal protections, benefits, rights and responsibilities that go to married families,&rdquo; said Lambda Legal lawyer Camilla Taylor, who is representing the couples along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.</p><p dir="ltr">The Supreme Court&rsquo;s decision paves the way for legally married same-sex couples to get some federal benefits previously reserved to heterosexual couples, such as veterans&rsquo; benefits or tax breaks.</p><p dir="ltr">But the decision <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/supreme-court-ruling-%E2%80%98bittersweet%E2%80%99-illinois-civil-union-couples-107867">likely won&rsquo;t apply</a> to Illinois couples who have entered into civil unions, or even couples who have been legally married in one of the 13 states that <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/human-services/same-sex-marriage-overview.aspx">currently allow</a> same-sex marriage. The couples are now asking that a Cook County judge quickly strike down the state&rsquo;s gay marriage ban, saying civil unions don&rsquo;t provide equal protections in light of the high court&rsquo;s ruling.</p><p dir="ltr">For 81-year-old James Darby, a Korean War veteran who is a plaintiff in the case, that means Illinois law will prevent him from being buried in a military cemetery alongside his partner of 50 years.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I served my country and I come back home, and I expect to have the same rights as everybody else,&rdquo; Darby said Wednesday. &ldquo;But unfortunately, I am considered second-class citizen in my own home state.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But the recent Supreme Court decision doesn&rsquo;t mean states aren&rsquo;t allowed to make their own marriage laws, said Peter Breen, a lawyer with the conservative Thomas More Society. His group is defending the state law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, which was passed in 1996.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There was nothing discriminatory about that action,&rdquo; Breen said, referring to the state law. &ldquo;And a decision in 2013 by the U.S. Supreme Court, on an issue of federal law, doesn&rsquo;t somehow make our Illinois state law defining marriage unconstitutional.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Breen accuses the plaintiffs in the case of dragging their feet to avoid a debate on the merits of the state law. Arguments on whether to dismiss the case are set for Aug. 6.</p><p dir="ltr">The 25 same-sex couples from around Illinois first filed their lawsuits <a href="http://www.wbez.org/years-groundwork%E2%80%94and-waiting%E2%80%94behind-illinois-gay-marriage-suits-99965">last year</a>, after each was denied a marriage license by the Cook County Clerk&rsquo;s office. But in a rare <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-states-attorney-illinois-same-sex-marriage-ban-unconstitutional-100101">move</a>, Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Attorney General Lisa Madigan - both Democrats - refused to defend the state&rsquo;s gay marriage ban in court, saying they thought the state law was unconstitutional. A judge has since allowed some downstate county clerks to act as <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/downstate-county-clerks-move-defend-gay-marriage-ban-100583">defendants</a> in the case.</p><p dir="ltr">A measure to legalize same-sex marriage is still stuck in the Illinois General Assembly, after lawmakers left Springfield in May <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/illinois-lawmakers-skip-same-sex-marriage-vote-107480">without taking a vote</a> on it.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/akeefe" target="_blank">@akeefe</a></em></p></p> Wed, 10 Jul 2013 14:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/advocates-ask-quick-rulings-gay-marriage-cases-108017 Illinois AG workers authorize strike http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-ag-workers-authorize-strike-101208 <p><p>The union that represents 250 paralegals and clerical workers who work for Illinois&nbsp;Attorney General Lisa Madigan has authorized a strike.</p><p>They&#39;re members of the&nbsp;Illinois&nbsp;Federation of Public Employees, which has spent a year in contract talks with Madigan&#39;s office. The union says 88 percent voted to authorize a strike if negotiations fail. Most of the workers are in Chicago, while almost 80 work in Springfield and a dozen are at other locations.</p><p>The union is asking for a one-time stipend instead of a salary increase, and a spokeswoman argues money from recent settlements reached by the AG&#39;s office should be used to cover the stipend.</p><p>Madigan spokeswoman Natalie Bauer, however, calls the strike threat &quot;outrageous and unrealistic&quot; given the state&#39;s tight budget.</p><p>Negotiations are scheduled to continue Friday.</p></p> Thu, 26 Jul 2012 09:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-ag-workers-authorize-strike-101208 Illinois joins push against for-profit colleges http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-joins-push-against-profit-colleges-99648 <p><p>Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has joined counterparts from 20 other states in pressing Congress to stop what they say is the exploitation of military veterans by for-profit colleges.</p><p>They sent a letter Tuesday urging Congress to close a loophole in the Higher Education Act that they say is to blame for a push by the colleges to recruit veterans and their families. That recruitment rush allows the colleges to cash in on taxpayer-financed tuition money coming out of the G.I. Bill and the U.S. Department of Defense Tuition Assistance program.</p><p>Madigan says service members, veterans and their families have become &quot;rich targets for aggressive for-profit college recruiters.&quot;</p><p>She also accuses the colleges of entrapping the veterans in costly private loans in exchange for what she calls &quot;questionable degrees.&quot;</p></p> Wed, 30 May 2012 09:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-joins-push-against-profit-colleges-99648 Federal standards now in effect for cribs http://www.wbez.org/story/federal-standards-now-effect-cribs-88463 <p><p>As of Tuesday, new federal safety standards will make selling certain cribs illegal in the United States. Everyone from yard sale organizers to mass manufacturers must adhere to the law, or else they could face civil penalties.</p><p>The new standards make the sale of drop-side cribs illegal. All other cribs are to be tested by independent labs for durability, mattress and slat support strength and must have warnings that instruct parents about when (age-wise) children should be using cribs.</p><p>Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, sponsored the original legislation.</p><p>“The fact that children have been injured or killed by these types of products and accidents that were 100 percent preventable is unconscionable,” Schakowksy said.</p><p>Schakowsky introduced the Infant Toddler Durable Product Safety Act in 2001. Provisions of the bill were then incorporated into the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act which was signed into law by President George Bush in 2008.</p><p>Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Tuesday the enforcement of these laws will be challenging. She said her office will continue to search stores, as well as websites like Craigslist for noncompliant cribs.</p><p>The law does not make it illegal for parents to use already purchased or hand-me-down cribs that are not compliant with new standards.</p></p> Tue, 28 Jun 2011 18:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/federal-standards-now-effect-cribs-88463 Blagojevich's $65K state pension now in jeopardy http://www.wbez.org/story/blagojevichs-65k-state-pension-now-jeopardy-88454 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-28/96553235.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Convicted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is likely to lose his $65,000 annual state pension, but he could get $15,000 a year in federal retirement for the years he served in Congress.&nbsp;</p><p>The Chicago Tribune reports Tuesday that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office will be asked to make a recommendation on whether Blagojevich should lose his pension. A spokeswoman for Madigan's office says the former governor must first be sentenced before the pension can be denied. It's uncertain when he'll be sentenced.</p><p>The 54-year-old Democrat could start collecting his state pension on his next birthday Dec. 10. Timothy Blair, executive director of the General Assembly Retirement System, says he hopes the pension board will have a ruling before that.&nbsp;</p><p>Blagojevich could start drawing his federal pension at age 62.</p></p> Tue, 28 Jun 2011 17:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/blagojevichs-65k-state-pension-now-jeopardy-88454