CPLC Stands With Chicago’s SE Side in Hunger Strike Against General Iron Move

Today, four members of Clean Power Lake County’s Steering Committee joined a growing hunger strike to protest the move of General Iron Industries’ metal shredding facility from Chicago’s affluent, predominantly white Lincoln Park neighborhood to the predominantly Latino Southeast Side (East 116th Street along the Calumet River).

Clean Power Lake County co-chair Celeste Flores explains why she, Lupe Bueno, Eddie Flores, and Leah Hartung participated in today’s one-day solidarity hunger strike:

[As residents of] Waukegan, Illinois, we know all too well how environmental justice communities bear the burden of the health and economic impacts from corporate polluters. We stand in solidarity with community members on the Southeast Side of Chicago, who are on the fifth day of their hunger strike.

Fasting is used as a method of protesting injustice. In this case, the injustice is environmental racism—something environmental justice communities experience on a day-to-day basis. Mayor Lightfoot has had plenty of opportunities to stand with the people and not with corporate polluters. Today I am calling on Senators Durbin and Duckworth to intervene before it is too late for the community members they represent. 

Just [as they did with] the community members in Little Village—who in April 2020 experienced the demolition of the Crawford smokestack in the middle of a global pandemic that affects the respiratory system—Mayor Lightfoot and her team have shown over and over again they do not have the best interests of community members in mind when approving permits that favor corporations over people. 

Senator Durbin and Senator Duckworth, it is not enough for you to come out with a statement after the permit is issued. This community deserves to hear you denounce the approval of the General Iron operations permit for the Southeast Side of Chicago, and they deserve it today. We look forward to you choosing to stand with people who live and work in the Southeast Side and holding Mayor Lightfoot accountable for her actions in this beautiful community.

A local teacher and two activists initiated the hunger strike to draw attention to their plight. They have vowed not to eat solid foods until the City of Chicago denies General Iron’s application for an operating permit. (For updates, go to #StopGeneralIron Hunger Strike on Twitter.)

According to a news report in the Chicago Sun-Times, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is investigating residents’ complaints that operation of the car-shredding facility would violate their civil rights.

As far as Clean Power Lake County is concerned, adding yet another polluter to a community already burdened by other industrial companies in the area is unconscionable. 

If you agree, please call on Senators Tammy Duckworth and Richard Durbin to intervene and condemn General Iron’s proposed move.  

CPLC Co-chair Joins Illinois EJ Commission

Dulce Ortiz of Clean Power Lake County in a video clip
Dulce Ortiz, seen here in a 2020 video stressing the urgency of passing CEJA.

Dulce Ortiz, co-chair of Clean Power Lake County, recently was appointed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker to Illinois’ Commission on Environmental Justice. She will serve through September 2022.

Ortiz currently is one of three commissioners who stand for communities concerned with environmental justice. She is the only voting member from Lake County.

The EJ Commission advises state entities and the Governor on environmental justice and related community issues. Members analyze current state laws and policies for their impact on the issue of environmental justice and sustainable communities. They also prioritize areas of the state that need immediate attention.

Voting members include 10 representatives of various state agencies and 14 members of the public.

Gubernatorial appointees include residents of EJ communities, experts on environmental health and environmental justice, and representatives of business, labor, and environmental organizations.

Ortiz has been a leading voice for clean air, clean water, and healthy soil for every Lake County community member—especially those disproportionately impacted by environmental pollution—since 2013.

CPLC: 2020 Highlights

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After the year we just had, the term “2020 vision” will never sound quite the same. 

2020 brought more than its share of tragedies and challenges, yet Clean Power Lake County (CPLC) had moments worth celebrating. We’re excited to share some of these moments with you because they highlight the many ways our supporters continue to show up to fight for environmental justice in Lake County. 

January 

  • January 6: CPLC joined Illinois Communities for Coal Ash Cleanup to comment on the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s draft rules for coal ash impoundments. 
  • January 6: The Waukegan City Council passed a resolution to support Illinois’ Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA). The resolution recognized that environmental risks and burdens fall disproportionately on communities of color—and that these burdens cumulatively contribute to climate change. CPLC supports CEJA as a solution to both environmental racism and climate change at the local level.
  • January 14: CPLC co-chair Celeste Flores traveled to Texas for EPA public hearings on the proposed Miscellaneous Organic Chemical Manufacturing rule. The proposed rule included regulations on ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions. Representatives of environmental justice organizations from across the nation attended the hearings. 
  • January 20: CPLC co-chair and Mano a Mano Executive Director Dulce Ortiz received a Drum Major Award from Waukegan Township. Announced on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the awards recognize people who stand up for human rights and civil rights in their personal and professional lives.
  • January 21: CPLC joined other members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition (ICJC) at a press conference to demand that legislators block Trump-backed fossil fuel bailouts. ICJC said the bailouts exacerbate climate change, pollution, and energy inequity.
  • January 21: The public finally learned that Medline Industries in Waukegan had initiated a temporary shutdown of EtO operations on December 13.
  • January 27: CPLC helped deliver 38,000 petitions from Illinois residents urging Gov. J.B. Pritzker to pass CEJA. Colin Byers of Waukegan spoke on our behalf. He was accompanied by Steering Committee members Rev. Eileen Shanley-Roberts, Eddie Sandoval, and Celeste Flores.
  • January 29: Gov. J.B. Pritzker mentioned clean energy as a priority during his State of the State address. (Let’s continue to urge the governor to act on this priority in 2021; see actions at the end of this post.)

February

  • February 4: Co-chair Celeste Flores attended the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., as a guest of Sen. Tammy Duckworth to help shine a light on environmental justice and “raise awareness of the fact that these communities face public health challenges at alarming rates while too many in power look the other way.”
  • February 18: CPLC signed a joint organization letter calling on the EPA to reduce EtO and other emissions from chemical plants to decrease the risk of cancer.
  • February 21: Co-chair Dulce Ortiz spoke at an Illinois House Public Utilities Committee hearing, urging legislators to protect communities against the harmful impacts of continued fossil fuel bailouts by passing CEJA and growing an equitable clean energy economy.

March

April  

May

August

  • August 11: CPLC joined national environmental justice organizations in sending a letter to the EPA opposing attempts to undermine the independent scientific standard for EtO.
  • August 12-13: Ten CPLC volunteers delivered public comments at the first of two sets of coal ash hearings hosted by the Illinois Pollution Control Board. 

September

October

  • October 7: Anticipating that CEJA might come up for a vote during the scheduled veto session, CPLC partnered with ICJC to create a video with our perspective on the need for CJEA.  Although the veto session was cancelled, the video remains a strategic tool to help move legislators during the next session.
  • October 31: As of this date, 1,712 people had signed a joint Sierra Club/Faith in Place/Eco-Justice Collaborative/CARE petition calling for strong coal ash rules. More than 310 petitions contained personalized messages.

November

December

Last, but not least

  • CPLC, partnering with the Illinois Environmental Council Education Fund, launched the “Support CPLC” fundraising campaign. Proceeds will help us ramp up public work to transition northeastern Lake County toward a clean, sustainable future and to fight environmental injustice in our community. As of today, we are more than halfway toward our $30K goal. To support CPLC, please make a gift here.

2021 vision

We predict that CEJA will pass in 2021—with your help! So we must tell our elected officials to pass CEJA now!

We have much justice work to do this year. Despite 2021’s disturbing start, we look forward to continuing this work, together, to create a more livable, more just world.  

CPLC Launches Fundraiser to Expand Clean Energy and Environmental Justice Work

Clean Power Lake County fundraiser: bit.ly/Support-CPLC
[Rawpixel/Pixabay image]
Clean Power Lake County, partnering with the Illinois Environmental Council Education Fund (Springfield, Ill.), has launched “Support CPLC,” a fundraising campaign to help us ramp up public work to transition northeastern Lake County toward a clean, sustainable future and to fight environmental injustice in our community.

Since beginning in 2013 as part of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, Clean Power Lake County has accomplished great things: annual beach clean-ups, adoption of a Climate Action Pledge by the Lake County Board, and passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA). Our fight for clean energy solutions even captured national attention through an episode of the National Geographic documentary series Years of Living Dangerously! We had gained respect as a powerful voice in the community.

By 2018, however, the national and local political landscapes had changed. Clean Power Lake County was no longer a viable part of the Beyond Coal Campaign. That meant we could no longer rely on paid organizers to handle administrative and organizing work.

For the last two years, Clean Power Lake County’s core membership has continued to work for environmental justice—entirely as a volunteer-led, grassroots organization. We continue to hold a place at the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition’s Climate Table. We are a member of the Illinois Environmental Council. We participate in numerous state and national policy groups. We support each other and the community we love by sharing information and educating youth and church groups about current environmental threats in our area. We do our best to organize our community for strategic actions to continue our core mission: moving Lake County away from polluting industries toward a clean energy future. We do this with no paid staff, no funding, and little discretionary time.

While 2020 has brought us many new challenges, it also has brought us new opportunities. The Illinois Environmental Council Education Fund (IECEF) recently agreed to act as our fiscal agent and awarded us a seed grant to help fund two internships.

All donations to “Support CPLC” will directly support two CPLC interns. The interns will immediately expand the work we can do to transition northeastern Lake County toward a clean, sustainable future and equip future EJ leaders to engage the people most affected by environmental degradation.

The IECEF is a recognized tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization. All donations made on behalf of CPLC to the Illinois Environmental Council Education Fund are tax-deductible.

To support CPLC, please make a gift here.

To donate by mail, please use our downloadable donation form and send a check payable to Illinois Environmental Council Education Fund (IECEF). Be sure to note “CPLC internship” on the memo line of the check.

For more information, please contact Celeste Flores or Rev. Eileen Shanley-Roberts at cplc@cleanpowerlakecounty.org or 224-212-9156.

 

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CPLC Welcomes Eddie and Leah to the Steering Committee

By Whitney Richardson

Clean Power Lake County is excited to introduce the newest members of its steering committee: Eddie Flores and Leah Hartung.

Let’s learn a little about them and the work they’ve done so far with CPLC.

Eddie Flores sitting on park bench
Eddie Flores connected with CPLC while organizing school walkout to support the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA). He got involved to learn about environmental justice and how he could help his community.

Meet Eddie Flores

Eddie Flores, 18, was born and raised in Waukegan, Illinois. He’s currently studying at College of Lake County but plans to take a gap year in 2021. He enjoys skating, backpacking, hiking, kayaking and canoeing, cooking, tinkering with electronics, and playing video games. He’s also really passionate about the environment.

Eddie reached out to CPLC in September 2019 while organizing a walkout at his school to support the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA). He had learned about teens participating in the global climate strikes and wanted to take part. When he couldn’t find any strikes nearby, he decided to organize one. He said CPLC provided him with helpful resources and information on what was going on in his city. He decided to get involved so he could learn about environmental justice and how to help his community.

Eddie has done a lot so far—speaking about coal ash rules at a local listening session last fall and at a statewide virtual hearing this year; advocating for CEJA with elected officials in Springfield; and speaking at a youth town hall during this year’s virtual lobby day. 

Next, he plans to do a year of youth outreach. He wants to have biweekly conversations on Zoom about environmental issues like Superfund sites, ethylene oxide (EtO), plastic pollution, and the impacts of climate change, including floods and fires. (“This will be a chill type of Zoom setting that’s more of a conversation rather than a boring type of presentation!” he says.) He also plans to continue sharing resources to help youth learn more about local issues and ways they can get involved.

“Growing up, I was never really taught about the coal plant or our Superfund sites in school and feel like it is something that really needs to be taught. I hope to connect people—especially youth—to this fight since we’re the ones that are going to be inheriting this planet,” Eddie said.

What will the world look like when  Eddie has accomplished these goals? How will he know his work has been “done”? 

“Achieving these goals would result in students growing up here having learned about Waukegan’s history of pollution and all of the ways in which corporations have exploited this town. Kids growing up here understanding that the reason why 1 in 3 kids here have asthma is due to the coal plant. The truth of the matter is, this work will never be done as communities of color are going to continue being hit the hardest by the effects of climate change. Communities like mine are all over the world dealing with environmental justice issues like flooding, fires, droughts, storms, pollution and much more—all caused or intensified by corporations and money-hungry CEOs that don’t care how many people they’ll kill or what world they’ll leave their children to inherit.”

Leah Hartung hiking in mountains
Leah Hartung got involved with CPLC as a way to act on her passions for environmental justice, energy policy, and helping her community. She develops original content for CPLC’s Instagram account.

Meet Leah Hartung

Leah Hartung, originally from Libertyville, Illinois, is currently a junior at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She’s double majoring in environmental science and economics. 

When everything was cancelled earlier this year because of the pandemic, Leah wanted to spend her free time helping her community. She had learned about CPLC through an environmental event she attended in high school. Since she was interested in environmental justice—particularly energy policy—she reached out to see how she could get involved.

Leah is the mastermind behind CPLC’s Twitter and Instagram accounts. She develops a lot of original content for Instagram because she wants it to be a place where people in Lake County can learn about local environmental issues and injustices.

As a steering committee member, Leah wants to grow CPLC’s social media presence and reputation as the place to go for crucial environmental and social justice information in Lake County. 

She also hopes to see CPLC grow “as we find ways to involve all our amazing members during the pandemic!”

What will the world look like when Leah has accomplished these goals? How will she know her work has been “done”?

“I would love to see high engagement on the posts, particularly seeing lots of our followers posting our content onto their own personal accounts because they find it useful. I would love to see around 1,000 followers on Instagram and 100 likes per post!” 

Leah’s goal can be reached with your supportso be sure to follow CPLC!

Whitney Richardson lives in Vernon Hills, Illinois, and recently completed a Master of Science degree in international environmental studies. 

President-Elect Biden: Make Right on 7 Green Priorities

President-Elect Joe Biden
President-Elect Joe Biden, shown speaking at a 2020 campaign event. [“Joe Biden” by Gage Skidmore, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0]

By Whitney Richardson

Dear President-Elect Biden,

We see you packing your (figurative) bags in preparation for your move into the White House. As you make plans to enact your presidential agenda, we urge you to use your executive powers to simultaneously and swiftly make right on all of the following:

We must remember we are here under the condition that our planet—experienced through our micro-environments—can retain the capacity to sustain us. It’s time to restore this essential lesson within our collective conscience. Climate change won’t wait. Our health won’t wait. Meaningful action can’t wait.

Sincerely, 

Clean Power Lake County
Waukegan, Illinois

Whitney Richardson lives in Vernon Hills, Illinois, and recently completed a Master of Science degree in international environmental studies. 

It’s Voting Season, Lake County 

Let's all register and vote!

That means it’s time for us to exercise our right to vote and demonstrate our collective power to shape our shared future! Here is important information you need to know about voting in the upcoming elections. 

Check your registration status

First things first: Visit the Lake County Voter Power website (Sitio web de Lake County Voter Power) to verify whether you are registered to vote. 

Get informed

Once you log in to the Lake County Voter Power site, you’ll be able to take action and find lots of helpful information. 

  • Request a ballot by mail November election
  • Track my mail ballot November elections
  • What is on my ballot?
  • My elected officials
  • My districts
  • Certificate of registration
  • Voting by mail program
  • Where do I vote?
  • Know your ballot style
  • How to cast a write-in vote

We believe it’s super important that you look at your ballots online before you go to vote in person. Ballots list a lot of candidates running for positions that are not as well known as the office of President. These may be harder (but no less important) to navigate if you haven’t done a little prep work before you go to vote.

Registering and voting in-person 

Do you need to register to vote, or update your information? No problem! You can register and vote the same day at early voting sites through November 1, and at specific locations on November 2-3. 

See a full list of early voting sites in Lake County.  (Haga clic aquí para obtener una lista completa de los sitios de votación temprana.)

  • Monday, October 19, through Sunday, November 1
    Grace period voter registration will be available at every early voting site in Lake County. All locations offer weekday, evening, and weekend hours.
  • Monday, November 2
    Four early voting sites will remain open to voter registration applicants on Monday, November 2.
  • Tuesday, November 3 (Election Day, state holiday)
    Grace period voter registration will be available at your assigned neighborhood voting site (el lugar de votación de su vecindario asignado), the Lake County Main Courthouse Lobby (18 N. County St., Waukegan), and the Lake County Fairgrounds (1060 E. Peterson Road, Grayslake). 

Election Day polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. 

Voter registration requirements

To register to vote in the US elections, you must:

  • Be a United States citizen
  • Be a resident of your precinct at least 30 days before the election
  • Be 18 years of age or older on or before the November 3, 2020, General Election
  • Not be convicted and in jail
  • Not claim the right to vote anywhere else in the United States.

In-person voter registration applicants will be required to present two forms of valid identification at time of registration. Both must include your name, and one must have a current Lake County street address.

Voting by mail 

Visit Lake County’s Vote-by-Mail information portal (el portal de información de Voto por correo de Lake County) for vote-by-mail application deadlines as well as information on submitting mail-in ballots. 

Due to post office processing delays, we strongly encourage vote-by-mail voters to:

  • Fill out your ballot and drop it in the mail on the day it arrives. Ballots postmarked after Election Day will not be considered. 
  • Drop off your completed ballot at one of Lake County’s free drop box locations (uno de los buzones gratuitos). 
  • Drop off your completed ballot at the Lake County Clerk’s Office (18 N. County St., Waukegan) by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Together we win!


Want details on ballots, candidates, referenda?

Click here (English).
English 
Click here (Spanish)
Spanish

 

 

CPLC Members to Lawmakers: Pass CEJA Now

Clean Power Lake County activists urge Illinois lawmakers to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act in 2020.
Dulce Ortiz, co-chair of Clean Power Lake County, and other Waukegan activists urge Illinois lawmakers to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act in 2020.

Storms are becoming more intense. Sea levels are rising. Disastrous wildfires are destroying record acreage (2.5 million this year) and impairing air quality over multistate regions. Climate change and COVID-19 are causing unprecedented public health and economic crises. There is no time to wait for cleaner, healthier, more affordable energy.

And we don’t have to wait. The Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) will create thousands of jobs in Illinois’ growing clean energy industry—without raising taxes or hiking utility rates. No wonder 82% of Illinois voters support CEJA, according to a May 2020 poll released by the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition. 

The thing is, Illinois lawmakers have yet to pass CEJA. So Dulce Ortiz, David Villalobos, and Eduardo Flores of Clean Power Lake County want to know: What is Gov. J.B. Pritzker waiting for?

CEJA will:

  • Put jobs and equity at the center of a clean energy future, creating well-paying jobs in the communities where they are needed the most
  • Guarantee cost savings on electricity bills for consumers through capacity market reform
  • Put Illinois on a path to 100% renewable energy by 2050 by taking advantage of the falling cost of wind and solar power and focusing on energy efficiency
  • Provide a just transition for fossil fuel workers and communities
  • Reduce air and water pollution from the fossil fuel industry

As we approach the final legislative session of 2020, will you stand for clean energy, clean air, and clean water? Tell lawmakers that CEJA must take precedence in the November veto session: Sign our “Pass CEJA” petition today.

 

CPLC Members Call for Stronger Coal Ash Rules

It is part of Clean Power Lake County’s DNA to support state action on toxic coal ash ponds.  So when the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) held its August hearing on proposed rules for the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act, we were there to call for stronger rules. 

Why was that important? Because the groundbreaking Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act provided an important framework for addressing toxic coal ash waste (see CPLC Celebrates as Governor Signs Milestone Coal Ash Cleanup Bill Into Law) and a rulemaking process. However, it did not establish enforcement standards. Instead, it tasked the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) with drafting the actual rules for enforcing the law. 

The August hearing was IEPA’s first opportunity to testify in defense of its proposed rules. It also was the first time that industry representatives, environmental groups, and other public stakeholders could ask IEPA about the proposed rules.

Several Clean Power Lake County members—including folks who participated in IEPA coal ash listening sessions in Waukegan last September—made virtual statements during the public comment periods of the August hearing. 

Mary Mathews represents the League of Women Voters of Lake County, a coalition member of Clean Power Lake County. Mathews demanded strict measures for coal ash: “In order to protect the groundwater’s chemical integrity, rules for cleanup and closure of coal ash sites must provide permanent protection from coal ash pollution.”

She also stressed the importance of public participation in the decision-making process: “The public has the right to know about pollution levels, dangers to health and environment, and proposed policies and options. Accordingly, the rules should include expanded outreach and require that opportunities, materials, and documents be made available to non-English speaking stakeholders. Additionally, hearings should be held in easily accessible locations, at convenient times, and, when possible, in the area concerned.”

Leah Hartung, an intern for Clean Power Lake County, stressed that improper coal ash management makes drinking water unsafe: “Since groundwater monitoring began in 2010, the groundwater at the Waukegan power plant has been found 400 times to have the contaminants related to coal ash above allowable levels. This is unacceptable. Safe drinking water is a human right, not a privilege.”

When IPCB holds its September 29-October 1 hearing—its second and final hearing on the proposed coal ash rules—Clean Power Lake County members will be there once again. We will stress the importance of adopting the strongest possible rules to protect us and residents of other communities burdened by coal ash pollution. 

Here’s how you can help: Email your comments to Clerk of the Board Don Brown by October 15.

Want background information to use to prepare written comments? Download Coal Ash Rulemaking Document by Prairie Rivers Network and Coal Ash Backgrounder by Earthjustice.

Illinois has the highest concentration of coal ash impoundments in the country.

There are two unlined coal ash ponds at the NRG Energy coal-fired power plant on Waukegan’s lakefront.

Tell Us Why “CEJA Can’t Wait”

 

We want lawmakers to know how much we want the Clean Energy Jobs Act to be enacted. We also want to promote awareness about this important bill. So we are creating a “CEJA Can’t Wait” social media campaign featuring Clean Power Lake County volunteers and supporters. 

Just picture your photo and words in a “CEJA Can’t Wait” post like this: 
 
Sample CPLC volunteer quote about CEJA
 
Will you participate in our campaign by speaking up for CEJA? It’s easy! 
  • Go to our CEJA Quote Form
  • Tell us why, for you, CEJA can’t wait.
  • Include a photo of yourself (if you are willing) to accompany your statement. 

Need a little help crafting your quote? We’ve got you covered. Download our CEJA fact sheet, including sample phrases you can personalize. 

Question? Please contact leah@faithinplace.org

We look forward to your responses!