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Waukegan Residents Deliver 2,082 Petitions to City Council Demanding Forward-Looking Plan for NRG Coal Plant Site
Clean Power Lake County Coalition Urges Waukegan Officials to Convene Task Force to Identify Meaningful Options for Lakefront Revitalization and Economic Growth
WAUKEGAN, ILL. (December 7, 2015)—Members of the Clean Power Lake County coalition tonight delivered more than 2,000 petitions from Waukegan residents asking Mayor Wayne Motley and aldermen to convene a task force to address the future of NRG Energy’s coal-fired power plant site so Waukegan can move forward as a healthier community with meaningful options for lakefront revitalization and economic growth.
The NRG plant, the largest source of air and water pollution in Lake County, was named one of the nation’s worst environmental justice offenders in a 2012 NAACP report. As such, the
57-year-old plant stands in the way of meaningful lakefront development in Waukegan, according to Clean Power Lake County, a grassroots coalition of community, faith and environmental groups.
Speaking before the Waukegan City Council, constituents representing each of the city’s nine wards urged public officials to move Waukegan beyond coal by demanding NRG provide a transition plan that establishes a retirement date for the plant, provides pathways to new opportunities for workers who aren’t eligible for retirement, provides a site remediation plan, and provides recommendations for site reuse that account for Waukegan’s tax base.
“The closure of NRG’s coal plant is inevitable. More than 200 coal plants across the country have announced retirements over the past five years. It’s clear: This coal plant is not compatible with our future, with a city of progress. We need a transition committee to grapple with the tough questions now so that we’re ready for the future,” said Julio Guzman, a recent graduate of Colgate University who returned to Waukegan to live and work. “I’m proud to be back in Waukegan. But let’s be clear: Most of my peers who leave for school don’t return to Waukegan. They go to Chicago, Milwaukee, or even Kenosha. It’s time to change that—but we can only change that if we’re brave enough to embrace the future.”
That future must be based on green initiatives, said Sister Kathleen Long from Most Blessed Trinity Parish of Waukegan. “Therefore, we were pleased to hear the city’s consultant, Edgewater Resources, say that Waukegan needs to begin thinking through how we can transition from coal to clean energy.”
The proposed transition task force offers the potential to achieve a win-win situation, according to Greg Thompson, a 40-year resident of Waukegan.
“For 10 years of my 37-year career as a chemical engineer in the refining and petrochemical industry, I was a strategic planner for a $3 billion company,” Thompson said. “This business background has made me very sympathetic toward NRG Energy’s need to turn a profit. However, as a strategic planner, I fail to understand why NRG would not want to plan for the future of the Waukegan plant. In fact, I believe NRG really is thinking about the future, but currently lacks an incentive to share its plans with the public. Here is where the city might be able to play a role.”
Thompson added, “What I am looking for is for the City of Waukegan to extend a hand in partnership with NRG and other stakeholders. Take a leadership role. Working together, I believe NRG Energy, the City, and other stakeholders can develop an acceptable transition plan that retains NRG Energy’s profitability while at the same time providing a timetable that allows the City to implement its redevelopment plan and satisfying the hopes of other stakeholders.”
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 Agg’in Tribe, Christ Episcopal Church of Waukegan, Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Exchange Club of North Chicago, Faith in Place, Father Gary Graf Center, Incinerator Free Lake County, Knights of Columbus, Lake County Bike Project, League of Women Voters-Lake County, League of Women Voters-Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Area, Moms Clean Air Force-Illinois, Most Blessed Trinity Parish of Waukegan, NAACP-Lake County Branch, Organizing for Action-Lake/McHenry Chapter, Respiratory Health Association, Sierra Club Woods & Wetlands Group, Tufo Art, and Waukegan Community Church.