The vision of Clean Power Lake County is to build a sustainable community that promotes the healthy development of all Lake County communities, especially those most vulnerable, by addressing environmental racism, practicing participatory democracy, advancing self-determination, and empowering BIPOC community members. The proposed expansion of Waukegan National Airport, specifically to replace the current runway with one longer than runways used at Midway and Chicago Executive Airports, completely undermines this vision.
The Waukegan Port District, which owns and operates the airport, has failed to engage the public in a transparent process around impacts of the proposed expansion. Moreover, the municipal corporation failed to provide a thorough environmental impact statement for members of the public or the Lake County Forest Preserve District (LCFPD) to review before asking it to approve the proposal.
For the planned expansion to proceed, the Port District needs to acquire 52 acres of designated public land entrusted to the LCFPD. This land is in a part of Lake County that has significantly less public green space than more affluent portions of the county, and where existing public lands have not been improved in ways that support public access. This area cannot afford to lose more green space.
Clean Power Lake County believes it would be a violation of public trust for the LCFPD to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Port District before the full environmental impact report is released and public hearings are held.
The people of Wadsworth, Zion, Beach Park, and Waukegan have the right to access complete and accurate information about this proposal and must be allowed to exercise their rights as community members who will experience the negative impacts of airport expansion.
The LCFPD has the responsibility to act in the best interests of both the people of Lake County and the green spaces entrusted to their care. Airport expansion is not urgent and does not require a rushed process. A change of this magnitude requires public engagement, transparency, and a thorough process.
The LCFPD must exercise its authority and require the Port District to demonstrate substantial value to the community, minimal negative environmental impacts, and assurance that there will be no loss of accessible green space in northeastern Lake County. Anything less would further erode the trust we place in our elected officials and jeopardize the future of our communities.
WE DID IT! In 2022, after working together as a community for more than 10 years, we shut down the last two coal-burning units at the Waukegan Generating Station’s Lake Michigan site.
The coal plant’s closure definitely stands out as the biggest milestone of the year for Clean Power Lake County (CPLC). Yet it is just one of several moments in 2022 worth noting.
January 11: State Rep. Rita Mayfield and State Sen. Adriane Johnson introduced legislation (House Bill 4358/Senate Bill 3073) requiring removal of all coal ash from the Waukegan Generating Station site. The toxic waste has contaminated groundwater at the Lake Michigan site for more than 10 years.
February 18: CPLC supporters met virtually with state legislators to lobby for bills addressing environmental injustices in the issuance of permits, requiring removal of all coal ash from the Waukegan Generating Station site, and more.
February 25: The Illinois Senate passed a bill requiring removal of all coal ash from the Waukegan Generating Station site. If enacted, it would safeguard Lake Michigan, the main source of drinking water for nearly 6 million people.
April 7: Despite widespread community support and Illinois Senate approval, a bill requiring removal of all coal ash from the Waukegan Generating Station site did not advance in the Illinois House during the last week of the spring legislative session.
June 1: NRG shut down the last two coal-burning units at the Waukegan Generating Station. Huge win for our community! Closing the lakefront coal plant has been CPLC’s top priority for almost 10 years.
June 9: WBEZ-Chicago and WGN-TV highlighted serious concerns about hazardous coal ash waste left behind at the newly closed Waukegan Generating Station. CPLC co-chair Dulce Ortiz, Sierra Club’s Christine Nannicelli, State Rep. Rita Mayfield, and Waukegan Mayor Ann Taylor were interviewed.
June 13: CPLC celebrated the delivery of the first of six battery-electric Pace buses slated for Waukegan. The transit agency decided to make the North Division in Waukegan its first Zero Emission Facility in response to a strong campaign led by CPLC Steering Committee member Leah Hartung.
June 27: Citing newly identified flood risks at the Waukegan power plant, CPLC co-chair Dulce Ortiz demanded NRG be held accountable for cleaning up toxic coal ash at the site as soon as possible. Joining the call for action were Waukegan Mayor Ann Taylor, State Rep. Rita Mayfield, State Sen. Adriane Johnson, and Congressman Brad Schneider.
July 28: CPLC offered a fond farewell to Summer 2022 interns: Waukegan native Michelle Aguilar, a government and politics major at Scripps College in Claremont, California; and Maddie Young, an environmental studies major at American University in Washington, D.C.
August 16: President Joe Biden signed a sweeping $750 billion health care, tax, and climate bill into law. Thanks to the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), Illinois is in a strong position to use the historic climate funding included in the Inflation Reduction Act.
August 20: CPLC co-chair Eddie Flores signed copies of Eddie’s Environmental Justice Journey during a downtown Waukegan event. The bilingual coloring book was a collaborative effort by Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, CPLC, and local artist Diana Nava.
August 25: Earthjustice—on behalf of CPLC and other groups—sued the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for exempting at least half a billion tons of coal ash in nearly 300 landfills in 38 states from standards designed to protect people from cancer-causing chemicals.
September 15: One year after the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) was signed, the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition saluted volunteers across Illinois—including CPLC supporters—who fought like the planet depended on it (it does) for a #FossilFreeIL.
September 26–28: CPLC Steering Committee member Celeste Flores urged the US EPA to require chemical facilities to prepare for climate change by implementing safer chemicals and processes. Our message during the virtual hearing: Voluntary measures aren’t enough to prevent chemical disasters.
November 4: A project to monitor ethylene oxide (EtO) in Lake County will receive a US EPA grant funded by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. “ Testing is a good start,” said CPLC Steering Committee member Celeste Flores in a Lake County News-Sun article.
December 14: Earthjustice—on behalf of CPLC and other groups—sued the US EPA for failing to take legally required action to protect the public from carcinogenic air emissions from ethylene oxide (EtO) sterilization facilities.
Now that pandemic lockdowns are behind us (forever, we hope!), we are excited about the opportunity to work with you in person once again!
Priorities for 2023:
Ensuring all coal ash is removed from the Waukegan Generating Station site. It should not be allowed to contaminate Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for 6 million people in four states.
Working to ensure workforce training programs under the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) increase access for marginalized communities and include community-driven approaches that lead to jobs, capital to complete projects, and more.
Supporting federal action to protect our community from emissions of ethylene oxide and other harmful chemicals.
As we reflect on the events of 2021, we feel grateful for—and empowered by—our community and our shared vision to make our world a better place. Clean Power Lake County (CPLC) is proud to highlight some of our recent accomplishments.
February 7: CPLC co-chair Dulce Ortiz joined the Illinois Environmental Justice Commission as a voting member. The commission advises the Governor and state entities on environmental justice and related community issues.
February 8: Four members of CPLC’s steering committee joined a one-day hunger strike to protest the move of General Iron Industries’ metal shredding facility from Chicago’s affluent, predominantly white Lincoln Park neighborhood to Chicago’s predominantly Latino Southeast Side.
April 18: CPLC demanded that President Joe Biden’s administration address the Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to investigate ethylene oxide (EtO) polluters in Lake County—or to warn residents about the carcinogen.
December 15-16: CPLC volunteers asked dozens of questions during Midwest Generation’s public meetings on proposed plans to close coal ash ponds on the Waukegan lakefront.
This year, we feel all the more energized to accomplish our mission: ensuring clean air, clean water, and healthy soil for every Lake County community member and achieving the self-determination of those disproportionately impacted by environmental pollution.
Priorities for 2022:
Continue pursuing a just transition for the Waukegan coal plant. This means ensuring that coal ash is removed so it cannot contaminate Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for 6 million people in four states. It also means ensuring proper notification and public engagement if and when the company plans any demolition at the site.
Monitoring efforts to implement the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act (signed into law in 2019) to hold coal plant owners accountable for clean-ups.
Serving in key working groups to ensure effective implementation of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (signed into law in 2021).
Illinois’ Climate and Equitable Jobs Act—designed to build an equitable clean energy future for Illinoisans—is now the law of our land.
Clean Power Lake County is proud to have joined fellow members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition as well as Illinois House and Senate leaders in Chicago on Sept. 15 to see Gov. J.B. Pritzker sign the sweeping bill into law.
The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act combines appropriate pollution regulations with equity protections to help establish responsible transition timelines for fossil fuel plants like the one on Waukegan’s lakefront. These equity protections are essential to prevent abrupt retirement announcements that leave no room for planning and force communities to fend for themselves against profit-focused corporate giants.
Clean Power Lake County has been fighting for nearly a decade to end toxic pollution from the coal-fired power plant in our front yard.
Waukegan deserves a just transition from coal to a clean energy future. And now we will get it: The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act invests $41 million per year in former fossil fuel communities and workers. It will replace lost property taxes, help workers with training, and support equity-focused workforce programs to help communities like ours become part of our clean energy future.
For far too long, Black and Brown lives have been sacrificed for the sake of corporate profits. The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act finally stops putting the profits of inefficient and dirty fossil fuels over the health and safety of our Black and Brown sisters and brothers.
This act addresses the historic inequities of pollution, creates jobs in the communities that need them the most, and invests in projects critical to our communities. Most importantly, we will leave a better community, a better world for our many generations to come, a healthy and clean energy future beyond coal.
As a community organization committed to justice for all people, Clean Power Lake County is pleased to celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month. We gratefully acknowledge the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals have had on local, national, and international history.
To kick off Pride Month, we are excited to participate for the second year in Waukegan’s PrideDrive. Members of our steering committee will decorate a car to show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.
PrideDrive 2021 is Saturday, June 5, from 1 pm to 3 pm. Vehicles will roll out from 269 W. Clayton St., near Jack Benny Plaza in downtown Waukegan. For route information, visit the PrideDrive Facebook page.
The celebration will continue with an after-party in front of Nightshade and Dark’s Pandemonium Brewing, 216 W. Clayton St.
The Lake County Health Department (LCHD), Waukegan Main Street and the LGBTQ+ Center of Lake County will fill the streets with friends, fun and pride.
This event will follow CDC, Illinois Department of Public Health and LCHD social distancing guidelines.
Political appointees in the Trump administration blocked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from investigating ethylene oxide (EtO) polluters and prevented staff from warning Lake County residents about the carcinogen, according to a new report issued by the inspector general for the EPA.
Clean Power Lake County is deeply troubled to learn of yet another example of Trump’s EPA standing with polluters instead of communities. But we are not surprised.
Although the EPA was aware of the dangers posed by EtO, it buried this information. EPA’s action put tens of thousands of disproportionately Black and brown Lake County community members in harm’s way. The EPA failed in its mission to protect human health and the natural environment by allowing corporations to continue jeopardizing the well-being of our already overburdened communities and exposing us to highly carcinogenic toxins.
It should not be radical for us to demand a healthy living environment.
We will hold the Biden administration to its promise to address these findings and demand continuous, independent, fenceline monitoring for EtO in every impacted community across the nation.
We applaud the Biden administration for creating the Environmental Justice Advisory Council—and we remind council members that tailored action must follow for each EJ community.
The EPA must provide the necessary support and proper communications to state EPAs and county health departments. This administration must hold the EPA accountable for communicating with local governments and EJ leaders; supporting state, county, and local priorities; and enforcing federal regulations.
We look forward to continuing to work with Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin of Illinois—two of the four members of Congress who requested an investigation into EPA’s handling of ethylene oxide emissions—and all of our elected officials to hold the EPA accountable and to address the many EJ issues our community members face.
As a community organization committed to justice for all people, Clean Power Lake County condemns the troubling trend of violence toward Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
The mass shootings that killed eight people—six of whom were Asian women—in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 16, are one devastating instance of violence against the Asian American community.
The Stop AAPI Hate Center received 3,795 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents in the United States between March 19, 2020, and February 28, 2021. This number represents only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur. Still, it shows how vulnerable Asian Americans are to discrimination that ranges from shunning to verbal slurs to physical violence.
Most attacks target the most vulnerable members of the Asian American community. Women report 68% of incidents. Youths (0 to 17 years old) report 12.6% of incidents and seniors (60 years old and older) report 6.2% of the total incidents.
Our hearts are with all of the Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities.
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.
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.
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 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 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: 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 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.
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.
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.
We predict that CEJA will pass in 2021—with your help! So we must tell our elected officials to pass CEJA now!