On Oct. 12, the City of Evanston filed a revised motion for preliminary injunction in the James Park environmental litigation. The suit alleges that defendants Northern Illinois Gas Company (NIGC) and Commonwealth Edison Company (the Utilities) are responsible for environmental contamination in and around James Park. The federal court in Chicago held hearings on the City of Evanston’s motion for preliminary injunction in the case on eight days, starting in August and concluding on Sept. 7.

The revised motion asserts that the Utilities manufactured gas at a plant on the border of the City just west of the North Shore Channel, and that they distributed the gas via pipelines buried near where James Park is located. Hazardous byproducts of the gas manufacturing plant (MG Waste Oils) allegedly condensed within the pipelines, leaked from the pipelines, contaminated the soil, and encrusted both the inside and outside of the City’s water pipelines.  Part of MG Waste Oils created hazardous deposits of methane gas.

The motion states the evidence presented at the hearings supports the City’s entitlement to an injunction. “In particular,” says the motion, “the evidence has shown three ways in which the escape of wastes from the Utilities’ pipelines may endanger human  health (in addition to the ways such wastes may endanger the environment): (1) the MG Waste Oil can release hazardous contamination into the City’s drinking water; (2) the methane resulting from degradation of the fugitive MG Waste Oils can cause death or serious bodily injury by explosion or asphyxiation; and (3) utility and construction workers, including employees of the Utilities and City who frequently work in excavations in the City’s rights of way, may be exposed to dangerous concentrations of the hazardous MG Waste Oils.”

The City’s revised motion asks that the Court appoint a three-member panel to investigate and identify the location of the NIGC Pipelines; to investigate the extent of the contamination;  to design (for possible later implementation) any remediation plans, and to undertake related tasks.

The motion asks that the Utilities be ordered to pay for all of the three-member panel’s work.  

In its original motion, the City asked that the Court order the Utilities to take the steps which the City is now asking the Court to put in the hands of the three-member panel.

The City filed a brief in support of its motion, and the Utilities have time to respond. The Court has set the motion for oral argument on Jan. 23, 2019.

According to the City, it has spent just under $2.8 million in legal fees and expenses in the first nine months of 2018 on the James Park environmental litigation. The total fees and expenses spent on the matter thus far exceed $6.2 million.

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...