2017-08-26 CPLC Press Release

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Lake County Board Chairman Launches Climate Pledge With Sierra Club and Local Supporters

Public Officials and Residents Issue Call to Action on Climate Change and Countywide Transition to 100% Clean Energy

WAUKEGAN, ILLINOIS (August 26, 2017)—Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor today launched an initiative in partnership with the Sierra Club to engage community leaders and public officials throughout Lake County and encourage them to use their voices and power to deliver local, bipartisan action on the climate crisis.

“With vision and determination, Lake County can move beyond coal, toward a 100% clean energy future, and invest in fiscally and environmentally sustainable infrastructure. Climate action isn’t just an issue for our president to fail on or Congressional leaders to ignore. Climate action needs local leaders to step up and lead us forward, and it’s going to start right here in Lake County!” Lawlor said.

Lawlor announced the new initiative, the Lake County Climate Action Pledge, before a crowd of 175 Lake County residents and public officials who gathered at the Waukegan lakefront for the 4th Annual Clean Power Lake County Waukegan Beach Rally and Cleanup.

The Lake County Climate Action Pledge focuses on moving Lake County beyond coal, adopting ambitious clean energy goals, and building climate-resilient infrastructure.

“I support Lake County moving beyond coal, a long-term vision of 100% clean energy, and building smart, sustainable infrastructure and transportation plans,” Lawlor said. “With a bold vision and courageous, bipartisan action at the local level, we can work together to make sure Lake County is prosperous and sustainable.”

Moving Lake County beyond coal means supporting a responsible transition plan for the coal-fired power plant in Waukegan as well as new sustainable investment opportunities for energy companies in the county, Lawlor said.

Many local Sierra Club members joined the Lake County Board Chairman for the announcement. Among them was Dulce Ortiz, a Waukegan resident who spoke on behalf of the environmental organization. “We sit at an unprecedented and, frankly, dark moment in our country’s history that has to be spoken to—when the President refuses to denounce racism and white supremacy, when immigrant communities and Muslims are under attack, when the head of the EPA is a climate denier and is actively rolling back critical environmental policies, leaving us to protect our own communities. These are not separate issues: They are absolutely interconnected and so, too, are their solutions. We are called to new levels of courage to speak out on these threats to our community and environment and to take decisive action at the local level in partnership with one another.”

The Waukegan coal plant, owned by New Jersey-based NRG Energy, is the largest single point source of carbon dioxide emissions in Lake County, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The first step is seizing the opportunities of Illinois’ new clean energy policies from the Future Energy Jobs Act by strengthening local job training programs and working with clean energy developers to build public and private solar and energy efficiency projects. This will bring new jobs for our residents, especially in Waukegan,” Lawlor said.

Building climate-resilient infrastructure means updating stormwater management systems and supporting a modern, sustainable transportation plan for Lake County that improves access to public transportation, biking, and electric vehicles.

“Lake County is already footing the bill for climate change as our communities brace for each big rain event that strains our aging pipes and threatens Lake Michigan. Climate change calls for new infrastructure and stormwater management to protect our communities from costly flooding damage,” Lawlor said.

Lake County public officials who join the Lake County Climate Action Pledge commit to support the three pillars of local climate action.

Lawlor is the latest example of community leaders across the country who—in the absence of federal leadership—are stepping forward with their own commitments to reduce carbon pollution.

To date, more than 100 mayors across the country have announced plans to power their cities with 100% clean energy.

In Lake County, eight public officials joined Lawlor in taking the Lake County Climate Action Pledge: Lake County Board Members Vance Wyatt, Diane Hewitt, Judy Martini, Mary Ross Cunningham, Sandy Hart, and Ann Maine; State Senator Melinda Bush; and State Representative Sam Yingling.

In July, Mayor Sam Cunningham and the Waukegan City Council passed a resolution committing the City of Waukegan to uphold the carbon reduction goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The resolution also authorized Cunningham to join the Compact of Mayors, an international platform for addressing climate change.

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, Lake County Bike Project, League of Women Voters-Lake County, Midwest Sustainability Group, 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.