A controversial plan to extend a chemical recycling zone in Illinois has hit a roadblock and failed to advance in the state Legislature by a March 24 deadline.
The bill, which would have extended the lifespan of a special two-county permit zone for facilities using pyrolysis and gasification technologies to recycle plastics, had attracted high-profile opposition from environmental groups, who mounted a campaign against it in the state Capitol.
Several large plastics makers have said they are considering recycling investments in that zone.
Industry groups acknowledged the bill, HB-1616, did not advance past an internal March 24 deadline the Legislature has for moving bills out of the House chamber, but said they would search for other ways to move the issue forward.
"While House Bill 1616 did not move forward last week, we will continue to try to advance this legislation prior to adjournment of the Legislature at the end of May," said Mark Biel, CEO of the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois.
Still, a source suggested it could be challenging to move the bill because of splits between pro-labor Democratic lawmakers who favor it and more pro-environmental lawmakers who oppose it, and a desire by Democratic leadership to avoid a public floor fight on the issue.
Democrats control both chambers of the state Legislature and the governor's office. HB-1616's chief sponsor is state Rep. Larry Walsh, D-Joliet, who is listed as a member of the International Machinist and Aerospace Workers Union on his website.
After the bill stalled on March 24, one plastics resin maker that has said it is considering putting a chemical recycling plant inside the special zone announced it was still moving ahead.
Ineos Styrolution America LLC put out a statement March 27 saying that it was moving ahead with engineering plans for a previously announced plant in Channahon, Ill. It said that design work “will form the basis for a financial investment decision.”
The timing of the announcement is unrelated to HB-1616, the company said.
“The project is currently in the engineering design phase with a final startup date yet to be firmly determined,” it said.
The town of Channahon is located in both Will and Grundy counties, the sites that make up the special chemical recycling permit zone. The zone regulates the facilities as manufacturing plants, which industry groups favor, rather than as solid waste facilities.
A state law passed in 2019 sets up that special permit zone, but it expires in 2025. HB-1616 would extend it until 2027.
Several other companies have also said they are considering chemical recycling plants either in that zone or elsewhere in the state.
ExxonMobil Chemical, for example, said in December it was considering a chemical recycling plant for waste plastics in Joliet, the largest city in Will County.
Because the current special permit zone does not expire until 2025, supporters could come back with additional legislation in 2024 or 2025 if it does not pass this year.
The Illinois Environmental Council, which organized against HB-1616, said it sees growing opposition to chemical recycling among community groups and legislators.
“HB-1616 didn’t have the votes needed to pass at that point, which doesn’t leave the sponsor many options for moving the bill forward during this session,” said Jennifer Walling, IEC executive director. “We aren’t surprised to see it lose steam.”
She said the March 27 Ineos news release indicates industry groups will continue “pushing hard” for the legislation.