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Residents From Waukegan and Lake County Urge City of Waukegan to Include Long-Term Plan for NRG Coal Plant in Its Lakefront Plan
Clean Power Lake County Community Members Call for Lakefront Plan Beyond Coal
WAUKEGAN, ILL. (July 27, 2015)—Representatives of the Clean Power Lake County coalition attending a community open house Monday night called on the City of Waukegan and Edgewater Resources to include a responsible transition plan for NRG Energy’s coal-fired power plant in new efforts to implement Waukegan’s Lakefront Downtown Master Plan.
The Waukegan coal plant, which NRG acquired in 2014, has operated on the shores of Lake Michigan for almost 60 years. NRG’s failure to respond to community members’ requests for a clear phase-out date for the coal plant leaves open questions about plans to revitalize the city.
Two hundred coal plants across the country have announced retirement dates in the last five years. The average age of these plants is 53 years. The Waukegan coal plant is 57 years old.
“We cannot plan for the future of our lakefront without addressing the future of the coal plant,” said Maryfran Troha, a representative of Christ Episcopal Church and a lifelong Waukegan resident.
“One of the biggest omissions in the original lakefront plan was its failure to reconcile the problems of an aging, dirty coal plant with lakefront redevelopment. If we’re to revitalize our lakefront to attract more recreation, visitors, families, and retailers, we can’t have the county’s largest source of air and water pollution continuing to operate right next to our swimming beach.”
The NRG plant site contains two coal ash ponds that are cause for concern. In 2012, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency filed Notices of Violation for elevated levels of contaminants—reported by the plant’s previous owner, Midwest Generation—in nearby groundwater wells. The proximity of the ash ponds to Lake Michigan raises concerns about the possibility of further seepage from the coal ash ponds.
Additionally, from 2002 through 2010, Midwest Generation reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it released more than 1,000 pounds of toxins into surface waters surrounding the Waukegan coal plant.
The US EPA is expected to finalize the first carbon emission standards targeting power plants in August 2015.
“For generations, Waukegan has been cleaning up after big polluters,” said Waukegan resident and small-business owner Peggy Jones. “Lakefront redevelopment has struggled for years precisely because the City failed to proactively plan with industrial polluters. This is about smart economic development and this is the City’s opportunity to include transition planning for the coal plant in its lakefront redevelopment process.”
Clean Power Lake County partners recently attended NRG’s shareholder meeting in Philadelphia, delivering 1,000 petitions from Waukegan residents who are ready to transition away from coal to clean energy. These same people also have actively supported the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill, which promotes low-income solar programs and incentivizes solar projects on contaminated sites, which would uniquely benefit Waukegan.
“NRG has a responsibility to provide Waukegan with a transparent transition plan so the city has a chance to effectively plan and grow,” said Verena Owen, representative for the Sierra Club’s local Woods and Wetlands Group. “It is incredibly exciting to see the City of Waukegan revive its efforts to revitalize the lakefront and we encourage them to explore clean energy development opportunities that can bring contaminated sites back on the tax roll.”
About the Clean Power Lake County Campaign
The Clean Power Lake County Campaign aims to bring the Lake County community together to build a just future based on clean air, clean water and a revitalized lakefront in Lake County. The coalition consists of the Agg’in Tribe, Christ Episcopal Church of Waukegan, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Exchange Club of North Chicago, Faith in Place, Incinerator Free Lake County, League of Women Voters-Lake County, Most Blessed Trinity Parish of Waukegan, NAACP’s Lake County Branch, the Respiratory Health Association, the Sierra Club Woods & Wetlands Group, Waukegan Community Church and the Waukegan Bike Project.