Time for Trump Organization to pay up for polluting Chicago River

Knowing the company and its notorious owner, the state must use every legal means at its disposal to get every dime of the $12 million fine.

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An appellate panel has ruled Trump Tower’s insurers aren’t responsible for $12 million in fines for polluting the Chicago River.

An appellate panel has ruled Trump Tower’s insurers aren’t responsible for $12 million in fines for polluting the Chicago River.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times

It would be good to see the Trump Organization finally cough up $12 million in fines for discharging 20 million gallons a day of polluted water from its namesake hotel and tower into the Chicago River.

The organization has been dodging responsibility for its action since 2018. That’s when the Illinois Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit alleging that the company, which was allowed to draw water from the river for its cooling system, improperly discharged heated wastewater back into the waterway — endangering the river’s ecosystem and wildlife.

The Trump Organization — like its namesake, always looking to lay the responsibility on others for its misdeeds — tried to get its insurers to pay out on the suit. The insurers balked and a state appellate panel last week ruled in their favor.

Neither the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency nor the attorney general’s office, which filed suit on behalf of the state EPA, would comment on the suit or the ruling.

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But we certainly will: The Trump Organization must pay the fine. And, knowing the company and its notorious owner, the state must be willing to use every legal means at its disposal to get every dime of what is owed.

The state sued the Trump Organization in August 2018, accusing the company of pulling the water from the Chicago River without an updated permit. The company then allegedly added injury to insult by pumping back into the river the overheated water from its cooling system.

The high-temperature water violated Illinois environmental laws designed to protect fish and waterfowl, the state argued.

The Trump Organization then moved to get its insurers to foot the bill and pay the fines.

But the appellate justices rightly saw through the likely ruse, and ruled the building’s insurance policies only covered property damage caused by an “occurrence.”

“We cannot find that this alleged conduct constitutes an ‘occurrence’ under the terms of the insurance policies,” Justice Jesse G. Reyes wrote in the court’s unanimous decision issued last week.

With its insurers off the hook, the Trump Organization is likely to do what it does best: delay, dodge, and stonewall to keep from paying the fines, or to trigger some kind of pennies-on-the-dollar settlement with the state.

We urge the attorney general and the state EPA to go to the mat on this one — for the sake of the Chicago River, as well as for common-sense and justice — and force the Trump Organization to pay up fully.

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