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Residents Urge Mayor Cunningham to Take Action to Transition Waukegan from Coal to Clean Energy
Clean Power Lake County Members Call on New Administration to Move Waukegan Beyond Coal as Cunningham Prioritizes Lakefront Development
WAUKEGAN, ILLINOIS (May 15, 2017)—More than 70 people from Waukegan and surrounding Lake County communities attended the first Waukegan City Council meeting presided over by Mayor Sam Cunningham, urging the new mayor to make a coal-to-clean energy transition plan for Waukegan a priority of his administration.
Clean Power Lake County, a grassroots coalition working to build a clean energy future for Waukegan and the county, had urged the previous administration under Wayne Motley to bring the owner of the local coal plant, New Jersey-based NRG Energy, to the table to establish a sunset date for the plant and a site clean-up and re-use strategy.
In the absence of willing participation from NRG Energy, Clean Power Lake County members tonight called on the City to take action on its own to establish a long-term plan—and to remind Mayor Cunningham that the coal plant is incompatible with his lakefront vision.
Among Clean Power Lake County speakers was Brandon Ewing, a Waukegan resident who recently was elected to the Waukegan School Board.
“We are not being honest if we think exposure to coal pollution does not have an impact on our students’ health. As elected officials, we can no longer hope for change. We were elected to create change. And the time to act is now,” Ewing said.
“A City of Progress should not have a coal plant on its shoreline and residents should not have to deal with constant industrial noise pollution or black soot on our beaches,” said Tarah Hoffman, who lives in Waukegan’s Buckley Hills neighborhood, next to the NRG coal plant. “If NRG refuses to participate in a long-term transition plan, as we’ve seen over the last couple years, then we are asking the City Council to take local action.”
The NRG coal plant remains the largest point source of both air and water pollution in Lake County, according to the U.S. EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online.
As the Trump administration actively works to undo Federal air, water, and climate protections enacted by the Obama administration, local municipalities must now take responsibility for action, residents said.
“If we want more people like me returning to our hometown then we can’t be a pollution hub any longer. This chamber needs to show that our voices as constituents matter more than just out-of-state corporations,” said Daniela Lopez, a student at Waukegan High School.
Over 26 cities around the country have made commitments to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy. In April, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that all city buildings would be powered by 100% clean energy by 2025.
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 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, Lake County Bike Project, League of Women Voters-Lake County, 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, and Waukegan Community Church.