These are challenging times. We are encouraged to maintain social distance and isolate for the safety of the most vulnerable in our communities, yet we must keep in mind that the very actions that help reduce the spread of disease make it harder for those on the margins to access food, shelter, and healthcare.
As people committed to justice for all people, we must find ways to prevent the spread of disease while also making sure that children who rely on school breakfast and lunch have access to nutritious food when schools are closed, those who depend on mass housing for shelter have a place to stay, and those who do not drive access the supplies they need.
Maintaining a safe physical distance does not mean complete social disconnection. We are called to use the tools we have to support and care for each other in times of crisis.
One such tool is reliable information. To help you make sense of all of this and get up-to-date information, we compiled a list of links to government websites, news articles, and audio resources: CORONAVIRUS/COVID-19: Helpful Resources
Celeste Flores, co-chair of Clean Power Lake County and Lake County Outreach Director for Faith in Place, will attend the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol on February 4 as the guest of Sen. Tammy Duckworth.
“Every American has the right to breathe safe air, drink clean water and live on uncontaminated land regardless of their ZIP code, the size of their wallet and the color of their skin. However, that’s often not the case for low-income communities and people of color,” Duckworth said.
“I’m so pleased to bring Celeste—a tireless advocate for environmental justice—as my guest to the State of the Union so together, we can shine a light on these issues 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,” Duckworth added.
Flores, who was born and raised in Lake County, saw the devastation of mountaintop removal while a student at Bellarmine University in Kentucky. After graduating from college and spending a year as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Appalachia, she returned to Lake County. It was then that she learned about local environmental justice efforts to ensure Waukegan a just transition away from the coal-fired plant on the shore of Lake Michigan.
In November 2019, Flores participated in a Senate hearing—chaired by Duckworth and organized by the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis—about the ways climate change uniquely impacts environmental justice communities.
“Growing up in Waukegan, a low-income and working-class area, and as a child of immigrant parents in a predominantly Latinx and African American community, I’ve seen firsthand how environmental justice communities in Lake County carry the burden of polluting industries and are forced to deal with the consequences of environmental injustice for generations,” said Flores.
“The time to act is now,” Flores added. “By joining together with elected officials like Sen. Duckworth, who has been a staunch advocate for environmental justice, we can lift up the voices of those disproportionally affected and achieve our shared vision for social change that is led by those most directly impacted.”
For years, Clean Power Lake County has called for state action on toxic pollution from two unlined coal ash ponds at the NRG Energy coal-fired power plant on Waukegan’s lakefront. On July 30, 2019, our calls were answered as Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed SB9, the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act, into law.
The most significant step to protect clean water in years, the new law will result in stronger rules for coal ash cleanup, fund cleanup programs, and require companies to set aside money to close and clean up coal ash ponds.
“This is a great win for coal ash communities, especially for Waukegan residents that have been continuously affected by corporate polluters,” said Dulce Ortiz, co-chair of Clean Power Lake County.
“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 Gov. 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 continuing to strengthen protections for our vulnerable environmental justice communities,” she added.
The groundbreaking bill addresses the many waste pits filled with coal ash, the toxic byproduct of burning coal, located all over the state:
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.
Provides the Illinois EPA the funds it needs to properly oversee closure and cleanup.
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.
Now the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) will begin writing and proposing draft rules. The Illinois Pollution Control Board will finalize the IEPA rules.
“Illinois joins other states that are putting residents’ health before industrial polluters’ profit. We look forward to working with IEPA to engage communities most affected by coal ash in the rulemaking process,” said Celeste Flores, co-chair of Clean Power Lake County and Lake County Outreach Director for Faith in Place.
Once again, we thank the many Lake County elected officials who supported this important legislation: State Senators Melinda Bush, Terry Link, and Julie Morrison; and State Representatives Rita Mayfield, Joyce Mason, Dan Didech, Mary Edly-Allen, Bob Morgan, and Sam Yingling.
With local, state, and federal elections coming up, we would like to remind our supporters that Clean Power Lake County does not endorse candidates running for elected office and does not participate in political campaigns.
CPLC is a coalition made up of 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations—charitable, educational, and religious institutions—that are prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office, under the Internal Revenue Code.
At the same time, we believe that practicing participatory democracy is one of the main ways we can build sustainable, healthy communities in Lake County. We respect and appreciate every individual who helps strengthen civic engagement or otherwise engages in the democratic process.
Clean Power Lake County has joined more than 70 other environmental justice and national environmental groups as an inaugural signatory of the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform to address the widening climate crisis—before it’s too late.
This historic platform highlights a shared vision for national climate action that confronts racial, economic, and environmental injustice while enacting deep cuts in climate pollution and accelerating a pollution-free energy future that benefits all communities.
Clean Power Lake County and other signatories believe communities that bear the greatest burdens from pollution, climate change, and economic inequality should co-lead the way in shaping the assertive solutions we need to tackle the climate crisis and environmental racism as well as to achieve a just climate future.
The platform released on July 18 lays out how we can—and will—get there together.
Enact solutions that address the legacy of pollution
Make justice and equity a priority
Reduce greenhouse gas pollution
Transition to a clean energy future
Reduce transportation pollution
Rebuild infrastructure and housing
Demand a just national climate agenda
Be on a pathway to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius
Our shared vision: “All people and all communities have the right to breathe clean air, live free of dangerous levels of toxic pollution, have access to healthy food, and share the benefits of a prosperous and vibrant clean economy.”
Learn more about the National Climate Platform and the inaugural signatories at AJustClimate.org.