Illinois

Proposed Consent Decree Edwards Coal Plant Would Help Community, Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Paul Dailing, pdailing@elpc.org, 312-795-3701

Proposed Consent Decree Edwards Coal Plant Would Help Community, Environment

Environmental Law & Policy Center attorneys represented the plaintiffs in case resulting in record award in an opacity citizen suit

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

In response to the announcement Monday of a proposed consent decree that, subject to regulatory approval, will result in the retirement of the Edwards plant and the payment of $8.6 million to fund community projects in the Peoria area. Attorneys from the Environmental Law & Policy Center served as outside counsel for plaintiffs the Sierra Club and Respiratory Health Association (RHA) in a Clean Air Act lawsuit brought, along with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), against Illinois Power Resources Generating, LLC (IPRG), an affiliate of Luminant, in 2013.

In response, ELPC Executive Director Howard A. Learner said:

“This consent decree, if approved, will result in cleaner air and better public health for people in Peoria and the surrounding region as the highly polluting Edwards coal plant is retired in 2022. Moreover, the consent decree provides for $8.6 million of projects to benefit the region,” Learner said. “ELPC is proud of our legal work in this case to enforce the environmental laws and protect healthy communities.”

In response, Brian Urbaszewski, RHA’s Director of Environmental Health Programs, said:

“We are glad we were able to craft a resolution to this legal case that provides certainty on future emissions from the Edwards plant and will also direct funding to benefit Peoria-area residents,” Urbaszewski said. “The steadfast legal work by ELPC and the other plaintiffs’ counsel helped ensure funds provided by the consent decree will be directed to public health improvements, directly benefitting sick and vulnerable area residents.”

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Milestone Bill to Clean Up Coal Ash Pollution in Illinois Becomes Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Milestone Bill to Clean Up Coal Ash Pollution in Illinois Becomes Law

The Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act is a critical step in fixing Illinois’ coal ash problem

*Note a teleconference with activists and legal experts will be held at 4:00pm CST to speak about the impacts of the law. Dial (605) 313-5111, Access Code 643244

CONTACT: Al Grosboll | Environmental Law & Policy Center | AGrosboll@elpc.org (217) 652-3866

 

SPRINGFIELD, IL—Today, bipartisan legislation to protect Illinois’ citizens and the environment from the effects of toxic coal ash became law. The  Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act will result in stronger rules for coal ash cleanup and fund cleanup programs through permit fees — while also requiring performance bonds or other financial security to ensure that companies set aside the money to close and clean up coal ash ponds.

The legislation creates a regulatory framework to ensure polluters, not taxpayers, pay for needed closure and cleanup, guarantees public participation and transparency around cleanups for affected communities, and provides Illinois EPA the funds it needs to properly oversee closure and cleanup. It also requires Illinois to put in place standards for coal ash impoundments that are at least as protective as federal coal ash rule requirements, with additional protection against dust and water pollution.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Bennett and Rep. Carol Ammons, passed the Illinois Legislature in May. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law today.

The legislation was badly needed. Organizations and community leaders have demanded state action for years. A recent report by Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice, Prairie Rivers Network and Sierra Club found widespread pollution in groundwater around 22 of the state’s 24 coal ash dumpsites. Pollutants found in nearby groundwater include arsenic, cobalt and lithium. That report found that Illinois is one of the worst states in the nation for pollution from coal ash pits.

Iconic Illinois landscapes such as the Middle Fork of the Vermillion River, the State’s only Wild and Scenic River are threatened by leaking coal ash impoundments constructed under loose regulations or no regulations whatsoever.

Now that the bill has become law, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) will begin writing and proposing draft rules. The Illinois Pollution Control Board (PCB) will finalize the IEPA rules once they are approved. Both the rulemaking proposal process by IEPA and the approval process by PCB will allow stakeholders and community members to provide input before the final rules are put in place.

“This coal ash legislation is an important environmental protection success to protect safe, clean and drinkable water in Illinois,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.  “ELPC is pleased that Gov. Pritzker signed SB 9 because it will protect our water quality, air quality and public health.”

 

STATEWIDE PARTNER QUOTES

“Thank you to Governor Pritzker for signing the landmark Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act,” said Andrew Rehn with Prairie Rivers Network, “We would not be here today with the incredible leadership from Senator Bennett and Representative Ammons and heroic efforts from community groups across the state. We are now taking the first steps in cleaning up the toxic coal ash stored in unlined pits across Illinois.”

“With this law, Illinois is joining other states that are working to protect their citizens from toxic pollution from coal ash dumps,” said Jennifer Cassel, an Earthjustice coal program attorney  based in Chicago. “For too long, utilities have been allowed to dump this pollution into unlined pits with no regard for the consequences. That will no longer be the case in Illinois.”

“By signing this bill into law, Gov. Pritzker has taken a historic step in protecting communities and the environment from dangerous coal ash pollution across Illinois,” said Colleen Smith, legislative director for the Illinois Environmental Council. “Now, polluters will be held responsible for the clean up of their toxic waste–not residents of Illinois.”

“The communities of faith represented by Faith In Place Action Fund applaud the Governor signing SB9 into law. Illinois joins other states that are putting its residents’ health before industrial polluters’ profit. We look forward to working with IEPA to engage communities most affected by coal ash on the rulemaking process.” Celeste Flores, Faith in Place Action Fund

“This is the most significant step to protect clean water and public health that has made it into law in years. People across the state who have struggled with the impacts of toxic coal ash are grateful that their calls for action to protect our groundwater and hold big polluters accountable have been heard. It’s now critical that the Illinois EPA develop the strongest possible coal ash rules with community input to ensure that this historic bill realizes its promise for coal ash communities across Illinois,” said Joyce Blumenshine of the Sierra Club.

 

REGIONAL PARTNER QUOTES

Wood River/Alton/Metro East

“It is always encouraging when people who have long felt ignored and powerless discover that someone finally listened. Metro East Green Alliance members have worked for several years to get the Texas-based coal giant Dynegy and the previous Rauner administration to do the right thing–to clean up the Wood River Power Plant that was shuttered over three years ago in a responsible way and to compensate the vulnerable community left unemployed and at increased health risk,” said Toni Oplt, MEGA member. “Now that SB9 is law, we feel the state legislature, Governor Prizker and IEPA have, at last, pulled up a chair for us at the table. We have faith they will continue to listen as the SB9 rulemaking for coal ash cleanup and the accompanying requirements for corporate financial assurances move forward.”

Waukegan

“This is a great win for Coal Ash Communities, especially for Waukegan residents that have been continuously affected by corporate polluters. The Governor is putting the State of Illinois in a good trajectory in signing SB9 into law, by sending a message that environmental justice communities across the state are being put before profitable industrial polluters like NRG Energy. Waukegan residents commend Governor Pritzker and our state legislators for making SB9 into law. Our land is our children’s future and we look forward to the state of Illinois to continue strengthening protections for our vulnerable environmental justice communities.” Dulce Ortiz, Clean Power Lake County

Vermilion County/Danville/Champaign

“We are so pleased that Governor Pritzker has signed Senate Bill 9 into law”, said Pam Richart, Co-Director of Eco-Justice Collaborative. “Community calls to clean up pollution from coal ash dumped on dozens of power plant sites across the state, including the unlined, leaking pits along the Middle Fork of the Vermilion, Illinois’ National Scenic River, have been ignored for far too long. This bill ensures that those living near coal ash will have a say in how these dumps are cleaned up, so that water quality, public health, and local economies are protected.”

“The Protect the Middle Fork Citizens Advisory Group sincerely thanks Governor Pritzker for signing SB9. This bill will help keep Illinois water resources clean in perpetuity; ensure that communities like ours have a voice in how polluting coal ash pits impacting our water are closed; and require financial assurances for coal ash impoundment closures. This is a good day for Illinois!” Protect the Middle Fork Citizens Advocacy Group

Peoria

“This legislation is a critical step forward in ensuring that frontline communities like Peoria, impacted by coal ash pollution, are protected and won’t be left behind as we transition to a clean energy economy. We applaud the leadership of community members and legislators who have pushed for stronger coal ash protections and now it’s critical that the Illinois EPA propose the strongest rules possible with public input from those most impacted.” Reverend Tony Pierce, President of Illinois People’s Action and Heaven’s View Christian Fellowship in Peoria.

“The Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance applauds the Governor signing SB 9, showing his commitment to communities that live with the prospect of abandoned coal ash pits and the toxins that threaten both groundwater and the Illinois River. The Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act will protect communities by demanding real financial assurances instead of allowing these continually reorganizing energy profiteers to insure themselves,” said Tracy Fox, Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance.

ELPC Commends Congress’ Bipartisan Support to Reauthorize and Increase Funding for Successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes
(312) 795-3706
JNemes@elpc.org
 

ELPC Commends Congress’ Bipartisan Support to Reauthorize and Increase Funding for Successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative over Next Five Years

“Protecting safe clean drinking water, healthy fisheries and enjoyable outdoor recreation for all is not a partisan issue”

 STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center commends bipartisan Congress leaders for taking a big step forward to reauthorize and increase funding for the successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The Great Lakes is where we live, work and play. Protecting safe clean drinking water, healthy fisheries and enjoyable outdoor recreation for all is not a partisan issue.”

“The Great Lakes provide drinking water to 42 million people. Reauthorizing GLRI for the next five years with increased funding is necessary to combat harmful algae blooms in western Lake Erie, Green Bay and Lake Superior, and threats of invasive species throughout the Great Lakes. More intense rain storms driven by climate change create significantly more stress on Great Lakes infrastructure and the ecosystem. The best defense is a good offense.

“The next five-year GLRI funding cycle, beginning in 2022, should ramp up to $475 million annually during that time from the current $300 million annual allocation. The funding increase would bring the program back to the original FY 2010 level of $475 million.

“Trump’s War on the Great Lakes must be kept in check since his administration attempted to either eliminate or cut funds for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative over the last three years. The administration fails to address toxic algae blooms by not requiring enforceable regulatory standards to reduce agricultural runoff of phosphorus pollution from manure and fertilizers that impairs safe clean drinking water for millions of people.

“Great Lakes protection and restoration has strong bipartisan support. Protecting clean water for fisheries and outdoor recreation and ensuring safe drinking water for all is not a partisan issue in the pivotal Midwest states where the 2020 election may be decided. Great Lakes protection is a core value shared by all.

“Since GLRI was launched in 2010, it has provided essential funding to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world. GLRI projects also protect safe clean drinking water for 42 million people and support a $62 billion economy based on fishing, boating and recreational activities.”

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ELPC Applauds (IL) Lake County Board Decision to End Pursuit of Route 53 Extension

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 12, 2019

 

Environmental Law & Policy Center Applauds Lake County Board Decision to End Pursuit of Route 53 Extension

“This is a big victory and turning point for better transportation solutions in Lake County and the Chicago region”

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

In response to the Illinois Tollway’s request to the Federal Highway Administration to rescind the Notice of Intent for the Tri-County Access Environmental Impact Statement, which effectively ends efforts to create a Route 53 extension north of Lake Cook Road, ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“This is a big victory and turning point for better transportation solutions in Lake County and the Chicago region. The Illinois Tollway has thrown in the towel, and the Lake County Board has de-prioritized the Route 53 extension, which isn’t financially viable and the public doesn’t want. Together, they are bringing this boondoggle and environmentally destructive tollway to its well-deserved end.

“Let’s acknowledge that the Route 53 tollway seems to have nine lives, but hopefully this is the last.”

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IL Pollution Control Board Advances Controversial Coal Pollution Rule for Vistra Energy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Pollution Control Board Advances Controversial Coal Pollution Rule for Vistra Energy

Environmental and Community groups’ welcome Pritzker improvements to Rauner pollution rule but call for stronger pollution reduction plans from Administration

CHICAGO – Today, the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) approved a rulemaking initiated in 2017 under the Rauner Administration that allows Vistra Energy, the Texas-based owner of Illinois largest coal plant fleet, greater flexibility to operate its plants with less stringent, state pollution standards. Since proposed, the revisions to one of Illinois’ signature air pollution standards, known as the Multi-Pollutant Standard (MPS), generated significant public opposition across the state and drew greater speculation on the close ties Rauner’s IEPA Director had with polluting industries though important improvements were made to the original proposal by both the IPCB and new IEPA leadership under the Pritzker Administration, environmental and community groups continue to seek stronger standards.

The new emissions caps change the existing standards based on emissions rates to a total tonnage standard which environmental and community advocates argue is less protective and will allow Vistra to shutter plants with pollution controls while continuing to operate its dirtiest plants without installing modern pollution controls. Those advocates contend that this could result in some communities seeing greater pollution from the plants that remain open and continue to operate without modern pollution controls. Notable improvements in the final approved proposal include lower emissions caps than originally proposed by Rauner’s IEPA, cap reductions if Vistra seeks to shutter or sell power plants, and a requirement to retire 2,000 MWs of its Illinois coal generation by the end of 2019.

The approval comes on the heels of yesterday’s federal rollback of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. The alternative plan, dubbed the “Dirty Power Plan” by advocates, is little more than a giveaway to the coal industry. With rollbacks at the federal level, state action becomes all the more important and advocates urge the Pritzker administration to take stronger action.

 In response to the IPCB’s decision, the Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois Peoples’ Action, Metro East Green Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Illinois Sierra Club, Respiratory Health Association, Prairie Rivers Network, and Union of Concerned Scientists issued the following joint statement:

“We’re pleased to see that important improvements to this rulemaking were won today by the thousands of Illinois residents who spoke out in opposition to this ill-conceived rule from the Rauner Administration and Vistra Energy. However, as President Trump continues to rollback federal environmental protections, Illinois should be leading with far more aggressive pollution standards on power plants instead of granting greater flexibility to a Texas fossil fuel corporation.

“We welcome Vistra Energy’s commitment to retire some of its Illinois plants–that it has said for years were likely to retire–but the new standards still allow Vistra to close plants with modern pollution controls and continue running its dirtiest plants without any modern upgrades which will leave frontline communities in Illinois at risk.

“As these out-of-state coal corporations continue to demand coal bailouts from state regulators and legislators, it’s critical that the Pritzker Administration and Illinois officials step up with stronger leadership to deliver more aggressive pollution reductions from aging power plants and plans to invest in Illinois coal workers and communities that will inevitably be left behind by these out-of-state corporations.”

 

 

 

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IL Pollution Control Board Finds NRG Energy’s Subsidiary Responsible for Polluting Groundwater with Toxic Coal Ash

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Illinois Pollution Control Board Finds NRG Energy’s Subsidiary Responsible for Violating Illinois Groundwater Standards with Toxic Coal Ash Contaminants

Environmental groups’ lawsuit hailed as a historic victory for clean water in four communities; puts state coal plant operators on notice

CHICAGO – Today the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) agreed with environmental groups in their lawsuit against Midwest Generation, LLC, a subsidiary of NRG Energy, alleging that four of its coal power plants contaminated groundwater with harmful chemicals found in coal ash. The pollution at those four coal power plants, located in Waukegan, Joliet, Pekin, and Will County, put the densely populated communities around the plants at risk. This is a major victory in a case started in 2012 by the environmental groups (Sierra Club, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Prairie Rivers Network, and Citizens Against Ruining the Environment).

The IPCB agreed with the groups’ claim that the contaminants from coal ash at the power plants, including arsenic, boron, sulfate, and other chemicals, routinely exceeded water quality standards and, thus, violated the Illinois Environmental Protection Act. The groups alleged that NRG Energy’s subsidiary Midwest Generation, which has owned or operated the four power plants since 1999, knew about coal ash contaminants both in and outside coal ash ponds and failed to prevent groundwater contamination.

The next step in this case will be a determination of remedy. The environmental groups will fight for the most stringent remedy possible, including a demand for removal of coal ash dumps at the coal power plants.

“Today is a huge victory for Waukegan residents who have fought for years to see corporations like NRG Energy held accountable for the toxic waste that has been illegally dumped on our Lake Michigan lakefront,” said Dulce Ortiz, Waukegan resident and Co-Chair of Clean Power Lake County. “The Pollution Control Board’s decision is a sharp rebuttal to NRG and Midwest Generation’s claims that they weren’t responsible for groundwater contamination from its dangerous coal ash waste. It’s critical that NRG is required to remove its toxic ash from our lakefront.”

“Today’s decision is a historic win for Citizens’ Against Ruining the Environment and Will County residents who have carried the burden of living next to NRG’s aging power plants and toxic coal ash waste for decades,” said Ellen Rendulich, Romeoville resident and Director of Citizens Against Ruining the Environment. “Our communities deserve to have this out-of-state corporation’s waste removed from these sites and NRG must be responsible for this clean up.”

“There is a moral obligation to ensure that polluters are held accountable for the impact they have on the groundwater of Illinois communities,” said Faith Bugel, Attorney for Sierra Club. “ The Board’s decision calls NRG out, and we urge the Board to impose a remedy that holds out-of-state companies accountable for cleaning up the pollution they dump in Illinois.”

“The Board’s decision affirms the broad scope of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act’s prohibition on water pollution and puts owners or operators of sites with coal ash on notice of their obligation to not pollute groundwater,” said Jeffrey Hammons, Attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Companies that run afoul of Illinois’ groundwater quality standards due to their improper handling of coal ash do so at their own peril.”

“The owners of these plants tried to deny that the groundwater was contaminated, and they even tried to deny that they knew anything about all of the coal ash buried across their properties,” said Abel Russ, Senior Attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project, which represented Prairie Rivers Network before the Board. “The reality is that coal ash on their property continues to contaminate groundwater. We are pleased and grateful that the Board could see through the smokescreen, and that they chose to stand up for Illinois’ natural resources.”

“Today’s decision is an important step in holding polluters accountable for their coal ash messes,” said Andrew Rehn, Water Resources Engineer at Prairie Rivers Network. “NRG’s coal ash ponds at Waukegan, Joliet, Pekin, and Will County have been polluting our groundwater for years. We hope that the Illinois Pollution Control Board makes NRG remove the coal ash dumps on their property and store it in safe facilities.”

 

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Illinois House and Senate Pass Landmark Legislation to Clean up Coal Ash

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Al Grosboll, Environmental Law & Policy Center, AGrosboll@elpc.org,

Illinois House and Senate Pass Landmark Legislation to Clean up Coal Ash
Bill addresses coal ash impoundments plaguing the state for decades

SPRINGFIELD, IL—Today the Illinois Legislature passed SB9, The Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act, which now heads to the Governor’s desk. The groundbreaking bill addresses the many waste pits filled with coal ash, the toxic byproduct of burning coal, located all over the state. Illinois is now the third state in the country to pass legislation providing significant coal ash protections above and beyond federal requirements.

The legislation creates a regulatory framework to ensure polluters, not taxpayers, pay for needed closure and cleanup, guarantees public participation and transparency around cleanups for affected communities, and provides Illinois EPA the funds it needs to properly oversee closure and cleanup. It also requires Illinois to put in place standards for coal ash impoundments that are at least as protective as federal coal ash rule requirements, with additional protections against dust and water pollution.

SB9 amends the Illinois Environmental Protection Act and was sponsored by State Sen. Scott Bennett (D-Champaign). State Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Champaign) sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives. A large coalition of activists from around Illinois championed the legislation that will now proceed to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk to be signed into law, including; Central Illinois Healthy Communities Alliance, Citizens Against Longwall Mining, Citizens Against Ruining the Environment, Clean Power Lake County, Earthjustice, Eco-Justice Collaborative, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Faith in Place Action Fund, Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois People’s Action, Metro-East Green Alliance, Prairie Rivers Network, Protect the Middle Fork, Sierra Club Illinois Chapter, and Springfield Clean.

Illinois has the highest concentration of coal ash impoundments in the country. The Illinois EPA has found groundwater contamination from coal ash waste sites dating back to 2009. A 2018 report from environmental groups Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice, Prairie Rivers Network and Sierra Club analyzing data collected by ash dump owners under the federal coal ash rule found that 22 of 24 of Illinois’ reporting coal ash dumpsites have unsafe levels of toxic pollutants in the groundwater. Illinois joins Virginia and North Carolina in addressing coal ash through state level legislation.

“Coal ash represents a clear and present danger to water quality and human health,” said Al Grosboll, Legislative Director at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “These problems have been ignored for too long. SB 9 is the right response and represents the most important environmental protection measure for Illinois in recent years.”

Additional Coalition Quotes:

Legislators

“Illinois has a toxic coal ash problem and, as a state, we’ve been slow to addressing it,” Senator Bennett (D-Champaign) said. “If we don’t act now, this toxic byproduct will be a part of our state’s environment for generations. We cannot afford to stand by while coal ash pollution threatens our water and our future.”

“For too long Illinois has simply reacted to crisis, without doing anything to get in front of the problem and avoid it,” said Representative Ammons (D-Champaign). “The passage of SB9 provides us with the protections, regulations, and financial assurances that we need to prevent more coal ash crises in Illinois.”

Statewide Partner Organizations

“Illinois legislators have taken a strong stand to protect communities from the dangers of toxic coal ash,” said Earthjustice Attorney Jenny Cassel. “This legislation makes polluters pay for cleaning up the mess they created instead of making taxpayers foot the bill. It also makes sure the public can give input in the cleanup of the toxic waste in their backyards so we can be sure it’s done right. The legislature did its part. Now it’s time for Governor Pritzker to sign it into law.”

“Today’s vote is a historic moment in the Illinois General Assembly protecting public health and our environment,” said Colleen Smith, legislative director for the Illinois Environmental Council. “This bill will hold polluters accountable for the harms their toxic waste has caused in communities across the state and ensure communities aren’t stuck footing the bill.”

“After years of inaction, Illinois will finally be taking steps to protect the public from the environmental and financial threats posed by coal ash ponds,” said Andrew Rehn, Water Resources Engineer with Prairie Rivers Network. “Thanks to our bill sponsors Senator Scott Bennett and Representative Carol Ammons for tackling this urgent problem.”

“Sierra Club Illinois applauds the General Assembly for passing this historic bill to protect Illinois communities and waterways from toxic coal ash waste that has been contributing to groundwater contamination across this state for too many years. It’s critical that we protect Illinois taxpayers from the clean up costs that profitable companies like NRG and Vistra should be responsible for if they do business in Illinois,” said Joyce Blumenshine, Conservation Chair for the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club.

“The passage of SB9 is a historical win for Environmental Justice Communities throughout our state,” said Celeste Flores, with the Faith In Place Action Fund. “People of faith across Illinois applaud the leadership of our elected leaders in the Senate and House for taking action on coal ash contamination of our land and water and implore the general assembly to continue to hold polluters accountable for injustice, oppression, and environmental degradation. We look forward to celebrating this victory with Environmental Justice Communities when Governor Pritzker signs this bill into law.”

Regional Partner Organizations

Alton, Metro-East

Metro East Green Alliance is thrilled that the Coal Ash Pollution Prevent Act has passed the Illinois Legislature,said Toni Oplt of the Metro-East Green Alliance. “Our communities along the Mississippi River are directly threatened by the coal ash ponds at the shuttered Dynegy-Vistra power plant in Wood River, IL., which sit on a flood plain where water is currently rising. SB9 will give our community a voice in future decisions of what’s going to happen to the toxic coal ash that sits next to our rivers and pollutes our groundwater.

Hillsboro

“With the passage of the Coal Ash Pollution Protection Act, our community is better protected from the coal ash ponds located at Coffeen Power Plant.” said Mary Ellen DeClue of Citizens Against Longwall Mining, “Coffeen Lake is an important recreational asset to our area and will be protected from coal ash toxicity. Thank you Illinois House and Senate for passing this needed bill.”

Vermilion County

We are so happy that SB9 passed the General Assembly and is now on to the Governor’s office to be signed into law! We want to especially thank Senator Scott Bennett, Representative Carol Ammons, and Representative Mike Marron with who we are working to protect the Middle Fork from coal ash pollution. Together, they passed bi-partisan legislation that will protect communities across the state from this highly toxic waste, and ensure the polluter pays for cleanup. We sincerely thank them and the General Assembly for passing a bill that puts Illinois communities first, said Pam Richart, Eco-Justice Collaborative.

“People from Danville, Homer and Urbana/Champaign love Illinois’ nationally recognized “Wild and Scenic River” – the Middle Fork of the Vermilion.  It is already impacted by coal ash pollution.  And we know that there are dozens of these toxic ponds around the state.” said the Rev. Cindy Shepherd, Faith in Place “Our water, our grandchildren’s water, deserves the protection this bill provides.”

Waukegan

“Today is a day of hope. A day of hope for many hard working black and brown sisters and brothers that bear the burden of toxic waste in our own backyards,” said Dulce Ortiz, Clean Power Lake County. “The passage of SB 9 out of the general assembly is a historic step forward for environmental justice communities across the state like Waukegan. Environmental Justice communities still have a long fight to assure community members have the basic human right of breathing clean air and drinking clean water. We call on Governor Pritzker to prioritize the voices of a community like Waukegan and protect them from polluters like NRG Energy.”

Illinois Passes Bill to Promote Renewable Energy Projects for Universities, Government Facilities

For Immediate Release

Contact: Judith Nemes, jnemes@elpc.org, 312-795-3706

Illinois General Assembly Passes Bill to Promote Renewable Energy Projects for Universities, Government Facilities

 Legislation will help reduce energy costs, move the state closer toward renewable energy goals

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois House of Representatives passed a bill by a 108-8 vote to allow public universities and state agencies to enter into renewable energy contracts for up to 25 years. Senate Bill 211 is sponsored by Senator Scott Bennett (D – Champaign) and Representative Katie Stuart (D – Edwardsville). The bill now goes to Governor Pritzker for his signature.

Universities and state agencies will now be able to enter into cost-effective renewable energy resource contracts. The previous contract length limitation was too short, making it economically infeasible for universities to enter into solar power purchase agreements. Installing on-site renewable energy with a 25-year contract will reduce overall electric bills for state universities and agencies while increasing renewable development in the state.

The legislation was supported by the University of Illinois System, Southern Illinois University System and the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

“Illinois is at a clean energy crossroads,” State Sen. Scott Bennett said. “As a state, we have the potential to continue to grow our clean energy footprint. Senate Bill 211 will make it easier for Illinois to continue that upward trajectory of providing clean, reliable and affordable energy to all of our communities.”

“Senate Bill 211 will give state agencies and universities the ability to adopt on-site solar projects,” said State Rep. Katie Stuart. “Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has been a leader in campus conservation projects. With this legislation, SIUE will be able to move forward with renewable energy.  Not only will this legislation lead to more sustainable practices from our universities and state agencies, but it will also cut energy costs over time.”

“The University is proud to be a partner in sustainability efforts to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Sean D. Reeder, Assistant Vice President, Office of Capital Programs & Utility Services, University of Illinois System. “Thanks to the legislation’s sponsors, Sen. Bennett and Rep. Stuart, for their tireless work on this issue. We look forward to expanding our renewable power portfolio following these new changes.”

“The Southern Illinois University System is pleased to have worked with our sister university system, the University of Illinois, and all our public universities to provide this important opportunity to realize greater energy savings through sustainable means like wind and solar,” said SIU System President Kevin Dorsey. “Our efforts could not have been accomplished without support from our partners including Rep. Katie Stuart and Sen. Scott Bennett in the state legislature, Governor Pritzker’s Administration with the Department of Central Management Services, and groups like the Environmental Law & Policy Center.  We came together to make a good idea even better as the bill was developed by the General Assembly.”

“Illinois is making great strides accelerating renewable energy development. Senate Bill 211 gives state universities and agencies new tools to lead on solar and wind energy,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “This legislation supports a healthier environment, lower energy costs, and job creation throughout Illinois.”

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Illinois Solar for All Program launch

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            

Contacts:
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization: Juliana Pino, (312) 344-3143, JPino@lvejo.org
Environmental Law & Policy Center: Judith Nemes, (312) 795-3706, JNemes@elpc.org
Blacks in Green: Naomi Davis, (773) 678-9541, NaomiDavis@blacksingreen.org
Illinois People’s Action:  Dawn Dannenbring, (309) 531-4433, ILPeoplesAction12@gmail.com

 Illinois Solar for All Program Launches to Bring Affordable Renewable Energy to Low-income Households and Environmental Justice Communities across the State

Solar projects will tap job training programs to boost opportunities for new trainees

Today, the Illinois Solar for All Program officially opens for business to promote new solar projects serving low-income and environmental justice communities throughout Illinois. An important element of the program focuses on solar developers coordinating with job training programs to expand the workforce in the renewable energy industry to include individuals who are or were foster children or persons with a record who are transitioning.

The program was created as part of the Future Energy Jobs Act, which was passed by the Illinois legislature in December 2016 to increase solar energy jobs and renewable development projects across Illinois, among other objectives. Funding for the first two years of the program is set at $30 million per year, which will be used to purchase Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from new low-income solar projects.

The Illinois Power Agency was tasked with implementing the program and it has hired Chicago-based Elevate Energy as the program administrator. The Illinois Solar for All Program has a number of sub-programs for low-income and environmental justice communities, including ones for rooftop solar, community solar projects, and solar projects for non-profits and public facilities located in and serving those communities.

“Illinois Solar for All brings unprecedented opportunities for communities on the frontlines of environmental harms and climate change consequences to lead just transition through adoption of renewable energy and its associated economic justice and cleaner air benefits,” said Juliana Pino, policy director at the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. “Dozens of members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition and Illinois Solar for All Working Group—from private solar companies to community leaders—worked diligently to create and support the program. Now, importantly, lower electric bills and career opportunities for persons with a record and foster care alumni will be prioritized where they are needed most.”

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center is proud to help establish one of the most comprehensive statewide programs in the country that drives solar development to low-income and environmental justice communities,” said MeLena Hessel, policy advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

“Jobs with strong wages and future growth are essential to stabilization in my community. Illinois Solar for All job training and hiring requirements create an important win for those too often left out of emerging economies,” said Naomi Davis, founder of Blacks in Green. “The quality of the job training is first class, and some graduates are even experiencing multiple offers from solar vendors. I’m so pleased the hard work of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition has produced a program with such dynamic, built-in connections between employers, trainers, and candidates. This structure ensures that economic opportunities flow more equitably in the clean energy pipeline.”

“Illinois Solar for All programs give hope and dignity to the least among us,” said Rev. Tony Pierce, Board President of Illinois People’s Action, and his church is a member of the Peoria job training program preparing persons with a record for careers in the industry. “Our communities have long been left out of the Green Energy Economy and these programs begin to address those disparities.”

Training sessions will be scheduled for approved solar developers to walk them through the details of the project submission process.

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Check out more of ELPC’s work with Solar development and Clean Energy here.

Chicago Tribune Editorial: Should the Illinois Tollway keep spending this $25 million?

Should the Illinois Tollway keep spending this $25 million? 

By Editorial Board

Northern Illinois has its share of public works projects that have languished in the “planning stages” for years without ever seeing an inaugural bucket of concrete poured. Millions spent, nothing delivered. A third airport in Peotone comes to mind. So do the Iliana toll road and, for those with long memories, the Crosstown Expressway proposal of the 1960s and ’70s.

You probably can put the Route 53 extension on the same dusty shelf. Proposals for an expressway that would extend Route 53 into Lake County stretch back to the 1960s.

But now the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the arbiter over which transportation projects get whatever federal funding is available for the region, has taken the Route 53 extension off of its priority list. When you say “no federal funding,” you’ve said a lot.

Unbowed, the Illinois Tollway is forging ahead with a $25 million environmental study launched last year to help officials determine if the proposed toll road is needed to handle growth in Lake, northern Cook and eastern McHenry counties. The 25-mile extension would link up Arlington Heights in Cook County to Grayslake in Lake County, and widen a stretch of Route 120.

So while the already dim prospects for the project have grown ever dimmer, the Illinois Tollway is still spending the $25 million. Why?

Tollway officials say they hope this study will help bring finality to a half-century debate: Should this project be built or not? The officials say the study is examining a wide geographic area and not just the Route 53 corridor. Conceivably, the Route 53 extension or some other notion — improved arterial roads? — could emerge as a potential solution for the area’s traffic snarls. CMAP then could return the Route 53 extension or a replacement project to its priority list.

The question is whether those two “coulds” justify continuing to spend the $25 million. The Tollway by itself arguably can provide all the finality it wants: If CMAP is downgrading this idea, we’re finished spending money on it.

The Tribune’s Mary Wisniewski quotes former Tollway Director Bill Morris, of Grayslake, as calling the agency “irresponsible” for spending millions of dollars on yet another environmental study. Last year the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization, listed the Route 53 project, which if ever built would carry a price tag of $2.65 billion, on its roster of the nation’s most wasteful highway boondoggles.

Still, the proposed extension has always had influential friends. They include the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, a think tank whose board members represent the construction industry and labor unions — entities that stand to profit if the extension ever gets built. Proponents of the extension argue it would bring jobs and commerce to Lake County.

But for now the proposal to extend Route 53 is going nowhere.

Here’s free-of-charge advice for the directors of the Tollway:

Your chairman, Bob Schillerstrom, says the environmental study is in its early stage. Yes, your staff sincerely thinks spending this $25 million could — emphasis ours — eventually lead to some project that CMAP would rule eligible for federal funding. But to those of us who pay the tolls, that sounds like a $25 million hope that the study will justify spending gazillions on new concrete.

With all of that, why not give the Route 53 extension — or any new derivative of it — a well-deserved rest? Why not declare any such project comatose for now? Why not revive it if and when the localities involved agree on whatever road improvements they desire?

And why not admit that continuing to spend the $25 million doesn’t bring finality to this long debate. It only perpetuates it.

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