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Lake County Leaders Gather to Celebrate President Obama’s Clean Power Plan
Group Calls on the Illinois EPA to Prioritize Waukegan as It Crafts a State Plan to Reduce Carbon Pollution
WAUKEGAN, ILL. (August 10, 2015)—The Clean Power Lake County Campaign today hosted local public officials and environmental justice organizations in a celebration of the Obama Administration’s release of the first national carbon pollution protections. The President’s Clean Power Plan gives every state the opportunity to develop its own plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants and ramp up clean energy.
The groups gathered on the Waukegan lakefront near NRG’s coal-fired power plant. The NRG plant, a large source of carbon pollution in Lake County, was named one of the nation’s worst environmental justice offenders in a 2012 NAACP report.
“The Clean Power Plan presents a huge opportunity for Illinois to accelerate the growth of our clean energy economy and lower our electricity bills while reducing dangerous air pollution from coal plants that has plagued Illinois families’—especially those in Waukegan—for decades,” said State Senator Melinda Bush. “This is a win-win for our economy, our health, and wallets. I remain steadfast in my commitment to health and well-being of communities across Lake County.”
The Clean Power Lake County Campaign has urged local public officials for years to plan a responsible transition away from coal to secure clean energy opportunities in Lake County. The finalized Clean Power Plan creates more urgency and affirms those calls to action. Today, organizations with the campaign called on the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to prioritize communities like Waukegan as it craft its plan to comply with the Clean Power Plan.
In attendance to support the event were Lake County Board Members Mary Ross Cunningham, Audrey Nixon, and Sandra Hart, a representative from Congressman Bob Dold’s office and former Congressman Brad Schneider.
“Our elected officials and our City Council need to make sure our community is put first as conversations move forward to evaluate our energy system in Illinois,” said Waukegan Fourth Ward Alderman David Villalobos. “In the hopes of making a positive impact for Waukegan, I will be circulating a sign-on letter with my colleagues in the City Council that will be addressed to Governor Rauner and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency that calls on them to include communities like ours in their decision-making process and to ensure our compliance plan with the Clean Power Plan puts communities like Waukegan first.”
A 2014 Lake County Health Department study showed that over 30 percent of children surveyed in Waukegan were diagnosed with asthma or had symptoms of asthma. The national average for childhood asthma is 9 percent.
“What we learned in Pilsen and Little Village—the neighborhoods polluted by the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plants—is that big polluters will continue to pollute egregiously unless they are held accountable,” said Kim Wasserman-Nieto, Director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. “Waukegan and Little Village in Chicago will need to work together to seize the opportunities of the Clean Power Plan and make sure cleaner air and clean energy jobs come to the communities that need it most.”
“Three out of every four African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. These communities are disproportionately represented among those with respiratory illnesses, such as lung cancer and pulmonary disease. In fact, African American children are three times more likely to be admitted to the hospital for an asthma attack and twice as likely to die of asthma,” said Jennifer Witherspoon of the Lake County Branch of the NAACP. “From hotter days to increased ozone smog to flooding, and impacts of disasters like hurricanes, low-income communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change.”
“Low-income families are the ones hit hardest by the impacts of climate change and we have an opportunity here to do something about it,” said Yuridia Carbajal of Most Blessed Trinity Church in Waukegan. “Protecting our environment is ultimately a social justice issue and Most Blessed Trinity and other congregations throughout Waukegan and Lake County are here to answer that call to action.”
About the Clean Power Lake County Campaign
The Clean Power Lake County Campaign aims to bring community members 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.