Judge Rules Trump's Chicago Hotel Is Putting Fish in Danger

The Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, Illinois.
The Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, Illinois.
Photo: JOSHUA LOTT (Getty Images)

Donald Trump is a real jack of all noxious trades. It turns out that as he was rolling back environmental policies and overseeing an endless stream of noxious climate misinformation as president, one of our dear former leader’s hotels has also been ignoring clean water protections. A multi-faceted pollution king!


An Illinois judge ruled that Trump International Hotel and Tower, a looming glass monstrosity on Chicago’s downtown riverfront owned and operated by the Trump Organization, violated state environmental laws by using water from the Chicago River to cool its air-conditioning systems without a permit, because of course it did.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Sophia Hall’s Friday ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed against in 2018 by the Illinois attorney general’s office. The state’s top lawyer accused the hotel of pumping nearly 20 million gallons of river water per day—enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool every hour—with an intake system that can trap fish against screens while the river is being sucked up. State biologists have found that nearly 70 fish species, including northern pike, largemouth bass, common carp and white perch call the Chicago River home.

According to the suit, the building would spit the used water back into the river at temperatures up to 35 degrees Fahrenheit (19.4 degrees Celsius) warmer, potentially damaging river ecosystems. The hotel’s last permit to use the river’s water for cooling its air conditioning expired in 2017, and it never renewed the permits. Very cool! Judge Hall determined that the actions went against two environmental protections, the Illinois Environmental Protection Act and Illinois Pollution Control Board Regulations. The lawsuit also said Trump International Hotel and Tower failed to submit reports on the impact the hotel’s water intake system had on the health of the river’s fish and other inhabitants, an accusation the judge upheld.

The Trump Organization has come under fire for the riverfront hotel’s pollution before. When developers first began constructing the building, they didn’t get a permit to use water for air conditioning use. In 2012, three years after it opened for business, the attorney general filed a state complaint against them. The hotel settled the suit by paying a $46,000 fine and agreeing to start following the law, but it’s clear that worked out about how things always work out with Donald Trump. For the fishes’ sake, let’s hope it goes better this time.

Judge Hall hasn’t yet set a penalty for the Trump Organization’s latest violation. She said it “will be addressed in subsequent hearing,” and set proceedings for March 11 to begin discussions on what’s appropriate. The attorney general has asked the court to impose a $50,000 fine for each of the two environmental regulations, and an additional $10,000 per day for each day the hotel continued abuse the river water. That would be up to $12 million in penalties overall. According to the Chicago Tribune, “the state typically settles with defendants for considerably less money.” But wouldn’t it be great if they didn’t this time?

Earther staff writer. Blogs about energy, animals, why we shouldn't trust the private sector to solve the climate crisis, etc. Has an essay in the 2021 book The World We Need.



I don’t understand why this is going through the courts. If you don’t have a permit or are not abiding by the permit, you get shut down until you remedy the situation. Why isn’t the city closing the hotel until it’s fixed?