Illinois

Chicago Tribune: SS Badger, last of coal-fired steamships in U.S. waters, gets new lease on life

The last coal-fired steamship operating in U.S. waters is undergoing a makeover to meet the terms of a deal with the Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate pollution from the disposal of coal ash.

Work on the 62-year-old SS Badger began last week in Ludington, Mich. at its operator, Lake Michigan Carferry. The 410-foot ferry, launched in 1952, travels between Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and Ludington and can carry 600 passengers and 180 vehicles.

A new conveyor system will transport ash from the Badger’s boiler to retention units being built on its car deck 180 feet away. Ash will be stored in four containment bins.

Chuck Cart, who has been chief engineer of the Badger for 19 years, said the conveyor will be in place in time for the start of sailing May 15 and will allow the Badger to operate in compliance with the EPA’s mandate to stop discharging coal ash.

The conveyor system was designed and built for the Badger by Hapman Conveyors of Kalamazoo. Installation is expected to take six weeks.

Previously, ash was transported from the boiler to an onboard retention area, mixed with Lake Michigan water and discharged in a slurry into the lake.

The ash will be sold for use in cement-making, said Chuck Leonard, vice president for navigation of Lake Michigan Carferry.

Together with an improved combustion system added last winter, the projects represent about a $2.2 million to $2.4 million investment in the Badger over the past two years, Leonard said.

According to Leonard, the Badger used 15 percent less coal during the 2014 sailing season than in 2013.

The Badger, Cart said, was built to the standards of its day, which once allowed trash and sewage of all lake vessels to be jettisoned overboard. As those standards have changed, the Badger has been modified to meet the new standards, he said.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin Meets with Illinois Environmental Leaders

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) met with leaders from the Illinois and regional environmental community to discuss important federal and state environmental and energy policy issues at ELPC’s office on Friday, Jan. 16th.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

The Times (Ottawa, IL) Editorial: Assisting Exelon – Offering help or handout?

THE ISSUE: State could boost struggling nuclear plants

OUR VIEW: Lawmakers should tread carefully

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has five color-coded levels for its advisory scale — green is low and red is severe, with guarded (blue), elevated (yellow) and high (orange) in between.

A similar scale might be of use throughout Illinois for communities that depend on nuclear power facilities as bedrocks of the employment and property tax base. At present, the threat level would have to be no lower than guarded, as Exelon Corp. is discussing closing its generation stations in Cordova, Byron and Clinton.

Operations in La Salle County, Morris and Braidwood are not considered at risk, but it’s no understatement to say conditions are leaning away from stability and toward volatility.

As with many major corporations experiencing uncertainty, Exelon is taking its case to Springfield (via Chicago, of course) to explore how, if at all, the state’s tax dollars might be used to impact the private sector.

Of course utility companies straddle a line between public and private concern that other large employers, such as Sears or Archer Daniels Midland, can’t quite claim. The government is heavily involved in how much utilities can charge customers and the extra taxes on the services they deliver directly fund a great many special programs.

Further, power generation itself is a community issue. The way a nuclear plant affects its surrounding area is vastly different from that of a coal-fired power plant, for example, and it’s precisely that distinction Exelon has singled out in its attempt to leverage influence at the Statehouse.

A Jan. 7 report from several state agencies detailed how the state could aid Exelon by adopting policies that penalize competitors that emit carbon dioxide. House Speaker Michael Madigan last year directed the Commerce Commission and several other agencies to study ways to boost the financially struggling nuclear industry, and the findings aren’t all that surprising.

Exelon told lawmakers it wants to be included in a “clean portfolio standard” under which nuclear, solar and wind power producers are rewarded for providing energy to the state. Otherwise, the company could push for a price on carbon that would make its nuclear plants more competitive.

Continue Reading

Chicago Tribune: Peoples Gas, North Shore Gas want to increase fees

Chicagoans can turn down their thermostats to zero, but they still have to pay a fixed charge of $27 a month to Peoples Gas to receive gas service.

That fee, already the second-highest of any utility in the Midwest, could jump 43 percent to $38.50 a month if Integrys, the parent company of Peoples and North Shore Gas, gets its way. That charge already has risen 199 percent since 2007.

North Shore Gas customers, who pay a fixed monthly charge of $23.75, would see the fee increased to $29.55, a 24 percent boost, under a proposed rate hike.

Only Duke Energy of Ohio charges a higher fixed fee, $36.43, in the Midwest than Peoples Gas does.

State regulators are expected to consider the proposed increases this month, possibly as soon as Wednesday. If approved, the hikes will take effect Feb. 1.

The increases are part of Integrys’ efforts to shift more costs to the fixed part of customers’ bills. The utility is lessening its dependence on money it collects based on how much gas a customer uses.

Integrys’ reasoning is that it must recover expenses to maintain its gas mains and meters and can’t depend on people burning enough natural gas to cover those costs.

“Utilities are capital-intensive businesses, and our costs are overwhelmingly fixed,” said Jennifer Block, an Integrys spokeswoman.
Peoples Gas is in the midst of a $300 million infrastructure upgrade within the city of Chicago, where it has about 829,000 customers.

Even though other delivery costs are expected to drop, helping blunt the sting of any fixed-price increase, consumer advocates are fuming.

They pointed out that residents of smaller homes are being charged the same monthly service fees assessed to those who live in much larger dwellings and who probably use a lot more gas.

They say residents of larger homes should pay higher fees because the gas distribution system has to be larger to accommodate them.

Continue Reading

Northwest Times of Indiana: Rauner’s order puts planned Illiana Expressway on hold

SPRINGFIELD | A planned expressway between Illinois and Indiana is among the transportation projects put on hold by new Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.

In his first act after taking office Monday, the Republican issued an executive order aimed at cutting spending. It suspended planning and development of any major interstate construction projects pending a “careful review” of costs and benefits.

Rauner spokesman Lance Trover confirmed Tuesday that includes the Illiana Expressway, a planned 47-mile east-west link between Interstate 65 in Indiana and Interstate 55 in Illinois.

Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence supports the project. He and other supporters say it would relieve traffic congestion on Interstate 80 south of Chicago and create much-needed jobs.

A delay may threaten the viability of a project that the construction trades have salivated over but that has elicited a lot of mixed feelings, especially in neighborhoods directly affected, Lake County Commissioner Michael Repay said.

“From my perspective, Illinois has a much greater benefit than Indiana, so if Illinois is questioning the cost-benefit, obviously that would be a sign that something might be missing,” he said. “Illinois has been driving it.”

The project would be a major economic boost for the whole region, especially at a time when the construction trades are in need of more work, Northwest Indiana Federation of Labor President Dan Murchek said.

“The Illiana is an economic engine for Northwest Indiana that would relieve congestion and create vital construction jobs,” he said. “We support the completion of the project and it’s disappointing Gov. Rauner has put that on hold. Indiana has looked at the project and determined it’s a good project for the state of Indiana. It’s been planned and talked about and should have been built years ago with the congestion that we have now.”

Critics — including Rauner’s pick to lead the Illinois Department of Transportation — have said it’s financially risky.

“The Illiana project is ill-conceived and unfunded and it could cost Illinois taxpayers a billion dollars,” said Al Grosboll, legislative director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “As a candidate, Gov. Rauner said he would do business differently in this state and that it wouldn’t be business as usual. Stopping the Illiana would send a strong signal about righting the ship of state.”

Continue Reading

Crain’s Chicago Business: Mark Kirk in damage control amid surprise battle with greens

Overshadowed by the hoopla over the inauguration of Gov. Bruce Rauner—and perhaps partially caused by it—U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is in damage control mode after opening a big breach with the state’s politically influential environmental community.

A host of green groups expressed shock, disappointment and more after the Illinois Republican in an interview appeared to suggest skepticism that industrial pollution is causing global warming. At least one of those groups, Chicago’s Environmental Law and Policy Center, is hoping to personally brief the senator and his staff on what they view as scientific realities. But the damage has been done.

Kirk’s comments came in an interview with a trade publication, E&E News, in which he suggested that Greenland has been losing its green for centuries, long before pollution levels really took off.

“We had the previous warming period, which was called the global optimum, and the best way to talk about that is when Leif Erickson went west from his home, he discovered a landmass that he called Greenland, because it was,” Kirk said after a Senate Republicans’ lunch to discuss legislation to build the Keystone Pipeline. “And that was called the global optimum, because the planet was much warmer. By calling Greenland ‘green land,’ we know that the climate has been changing pretty regularly within recorded memory.”

Kirk’s office later released a statement from the senator saying that “climate change is real and human beings definitely play a role.”

“As I have said since 2010, I will not support a carbon tax or similar attempts which hurt the Illinois or American economy,” he said, according to the statement.

Continue Reading

Midwest Energy News: Chicago council committee moves to limit petcoke transport

The battle over storage of petcoke in Chicago continued Tuesday with the City Council’s zoning committee passing an ordinance that would order the city planning and development commissioner to set limits by the end of March on how much petcoke can be moved through KCBX Terminals’ facility on the Southeast Side.

Alderman John Pope, who represents the neighborhood, and environmental leaders and community activists testified in support of the ordinance, while KCBX’s president and two environmental consultants hired by the company testified that dust from the facility is not harming local residents and that stricter limits are not needed.

If the ordinance is passed by the full City Council, it remains to be seen how strict the limits will be, and how rigorously they will be enforced.

Public health department rules that took effect last year limit the footprint of petcoke storage facilities and require enclosure of operations and dust-suppression measures. But local residents are upset that KCBX has requested variances allowing them exemptions from those rules. Most notably, the company is requesting an extra 14 months to enclose the petcoke piles, and the company has said they cannot complete the enclosure more quickly.

At the hearing Tuesday, local residents and attorneys with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Law & Policy Center all called for limits of “zero” petcoke through-put, a de facto call to shut down or freeze the operations.

“Science shows there is no safe point other than zero” for emissions of fine particulate matter like petcoke dust, testified Brian Urbaszewski, environmental programs director of the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

Continue Reading

Chicago Tribune: Plug-in vehicles outpacing hybrids in market acceptance

A long time ago, in an auto world far far away, two vehicles got plugged into the automotive marketplace. It is December 2010, and the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle joins the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid in a front that would forever change the automotive landscape, ushering in a new era of car consciousness known as the electrification of vehicles.

[Cue theatrical score]

Four years later, as 2015 models hit lots and automakers announce new products for 2016, an estimated 30 plug-in vehicles are set to hit the market. Nissan and Chevy have been joined by the Ford C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi plug-in cars, along with the all-electric Ford Focus; BMW brings the i3 which comes as a plug-in with a gas generator or as a pure electric, and the $135,000 i8 supercar with scissor doors and irrepressible acceleration; Volkswagen/Audi has launched three plug-ins in Europe that are expected to join the Golf plug-in in the U.S.; the Kia Soul EV went to market at the end of 2014; Mercedes-Benz is rolling a plug-in S-Class to join the B-Class electrified tri-stars; and Fiat, Mitsubishi, Chevy, Porsche, Cadillac and others are introducing electrified autos in the United States in 2015. Add to it the much-anticipated and much-delayed Tesla Model X gull wing crossover, which will be the second model offered by the luxury performance Silicon Valley all-electric automaker(production of the Roadster has been discontinued, though Tesla just released a Roadster 3.0 kit that boosts range from 245 miles to 400). Whew. Now that’s an armada.

Improving mileage, or optimizing fuel, has been the driving force in the automotive industry since the OPEC oil embargo of 1973. Enacted in 1975 and finalized in 2012, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard agreed on by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration aims to impose incremental increases in fuel economy in an effort to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and limit our dependence on foreign oil.

The target unadjusted average fuel economy for all cars is 54.5 mpg by 2025; the adjusted fuel economy, which is the one we see on Monroney stickers and on vehicle information displays, is closer to 40 mpg by 2025.

Currently, we’re at about 25.6 mpg.

There has been an 87 percent reduction in smog-forming tailpipe emissions since 2000, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Global warming emissions from the average vehicle have decreased by nearly 20 percent over the same time. Moreover, domestic oil production is at a record high; 84 percent of energy used in the United States is produced in the United States.

The law is doing as it intended but it has been furthered by overwhelming consumer demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles, which consistently ranks at the top of most important factors when buying a car.

In some states, the emissions targets are even more dramatic.

California has set a zero emission vehicle mandate requiring automakers to sell zero emission vehicles as 15 percent of cars sold by 2025. Zero emission vehicles include pure electric cars, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and other alternative fuels. Ten other states are following California’s ambitious goal, most on the East and West coasts.

Continue Reading

Chicago Tribune: Sen. Kirk clarifies view on climate change

After criticism from environmental groups, Sen. Mark Kirk said Thursday that climate change is real and human activity contributes to it.

The Illinois Republican issued a statement after Environment & Energy Daily reported Thursday on remarks Kirk made a day earlier to one of its reporters. According to E&E Daily, Kirk said climate change isn’t caused by industrial greenhouse gas emissions, but its report did not quote the senator directly on that point.

E&E Daily did quote Kirk as saying that “political correctness took over climate science.”

It also quoted Kirk as saying: “We had the previous warming period, which was called global optimum, and the best way to talk about that is when (Leif Eriksson) went west from his home, he discovered a land mass that he called Greenland, because it was. And that was called the global optimum, because the planet was much warmer. By calling Greenland ‘green land,’ we know that the climate has been changing pretty regularly within recorded memory.”

Eriksson was an 11th century explorer widely held to have been the first European to reach the shores of North America, according to Britannica Online Encyclopedia. His father, Erik Thorvaldson — known as Erik the Red — founded the first European settlement on Greenland, Britannica says.

Climate change is a hot issue as the Senate is poised for votes beginning Monday on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. The White House says it will veto the measure, if passed.

Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats, sought Thursday to amend the pipeline legislation with a “sense of Congress” resolution saying climate change is real and caused by human activity and already has caused “devastating problems.”

His amendment was offered at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee meeting and was tabled, said Jeff Frank, his press secretary. Kirk is not on the committee.

Continue Reading

Washington Post: Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) describes global warming as natural phenomenon

Four and-a-half years ago, Illinois Republican Mark Kirk voted for a sweeping House bill that would have imposed nationwide restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change.

What a difference a couple of elections can make.

Kirk, who was serving in the House at the time but is now running for reelection in the Senate, described global warming Wednesday as a largely-natural phenomenon.

“We had the previous warming period, which was called the global optimum, and the best way to talk about that is when Leif Erickson went west from his home, he discovered a landmass that he called Greenland, because it was,” Kirk told a reporter from E&E News. “And that was called the global optimum, because the planet was much warmer. By calling Greenland ‘green land,’ we know that the climate has been changing pretty regularly within recorded memory.”

Long considered a moderate, Kirk had received favorable ratings from environmentalists early in his career. In 2010, Kirk received a 70 percent score from the League of Conservation Voters for his House record, one of the highest percentages given to a Republican. Kirk was one of just eight Republicans who voted in favor of the 2009 climate bill authored by then-Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).

In a statement Thursday, Kirk said he believes human activity plays a role in climate change but policymakers need to be measured in how they address it.

Continue Reading

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now