Moving Waukegan Forward With Renewable Energy

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Members of the Clean Power Lake County Campaign were pleased to meet with several elected officials from Waukegan and Lake County, staff members representing state elected officials, and faith leaders on March 31, 2016, to discuss public opinion about renewable energy and clean energy opportunities for Waukegan and all of Lake County.

The lunchtime event, “Moving Waukegan Forward,” featured two speakers: Andrew Baumann, vice president of Global Strategy Group, and Sarah Wochos, co-legislative director for the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Baumann reviewed details of a poll conducted by his company that showed 70 percent of Waukegan voters support a transition plan that sets a retirement date for NRG Energy’s coal-fired power plant on the Waukegan lakefront and expands solar power. (Full poll results are available at sierraclub.org/waukegan.)

Wochos outlined ideas for seizing renewable energy opportunities, which can help bring good-paying jobs to Lake County.

The Lake County News-Sun published a good recap of the March 31 event.

The event was co-sponsored by several Clean Power Lake County coalition partners: Christ Episcopal Church of Waukegan, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Faith in Place, the League of Women Voters, Most Blessed Trinity Parish of Waukegan, NAACP of Lake County, Respiratory Health Association, and Sierra Club.

All slide show images by Dylan Blake for Clean Power Lake County. 

 

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‘Chicago Tonight’ Spotlights Waukegan Coal Plant Controversy

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Three members of the Clean Power Lake County Campaign were featured prominently in a March 23, 2016, report by “Chicago Tonight,” Chicago’s premier news and public affairs magazine.

Waukegan Fourth Ward Alderman David Villalobos, Sister Kathleen Long of Most Blessed Trinity Catholic Parish (Waukegan), and Christine Nannicelli of the Sierra Club highlighted several reasons why we are pushing for a transition plan that spells out a retirement date for the coal-fired power plant in Waukegan and also emphasizes renewable clean energy sources as part of the report, “Activists Call for Closure of Waukegan Coal-Fired Power Plant.”

The “Chicago Tonight” video and transcript are available online.

Area residents were quick to sound off—via the Lake County News-Sun—about on-camera remarks by Mayor Wayne Motley of Waukegan and Julie Contreras, chair of the Lake County Latino activist group LULAC:

Glad to see folks standing up for our lakefront and wanting to see a future without pollution. It’s been one of Waukegan’s greatest challenges to attract more visitors and new economic growth. There are so many opportunities here to chart a new path for Waukegan but we’re going to need courageous leadership that isn’t tied to out-of-state corporations. It’s encouraging to see Alderman (David) Villalobos have the independence, courage, and vision to speak out.

It was great to see more media coverage on the coal plant issue here in Waukegan. I applaud the persistent efforts of organizations and local leaders to push our city toward a cleaner and healthier future for our lakefront. However, I don’t see how Mayor Motley’s responses and perspective on the coal plant align with the plans of revitalizing the lakefront that will attract more visitors, businesses, and recreational activities. Waukegan wants to brand itself as a city moving forward and we need to address the pollution from the plant on the lakefront. Thank you.

I was happy to see that “Chicago Tonight” took an interest in Waukegan this week with its story, “Activists Call for Closure of Waukegan Coal-Fired Power Plant.” While a range of positions were expressed, I think we all know that coal pollution is dangerous. Waukegan has paid a big price for all the pollution it has endured for decades from corporations who make their profits and leave their contamination behind. It is important to plan a transition from the coal plant to clean energy precisely so people’s jobs and the city’s tax base not suddenly be lost when this aging coal plant—like so many in the country—ends up closing down. Hopefully one day elected officials will deny the corporate campaign contributions and do what’s right for our community. Waukegan deserves better.

I saw a TV program about the NRG coal-fired power plant in Waukegan. If the mayor is worried about the coal plant leaving the community, and the impacts to the tax base and jobs, then the city should begin planning for it now. I keep reading about coal plants closing and coal mining companies going into bankruptcy. That plant is old and will not keep running for much longer. Mayor Wayne Motley’s statements are short-sighted. He should see the great opportunity he has in front of him to demonstrate effective leadership to chart a responsible transition plan for the plant. Everyone

Speaking on Environmental Justice Issues at Illinois Civil Rights Hearing

Eight members of the Clean Power Lake County Campaign attended a March 9, 2016, hearing held by the Illinois Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to tell how pollution from NRG Energy’s coal-fired power plant disproportionately affects minority and low-income residents in Waukegan.

Representing Clean Power Lake County and its coalition partners were Dulce Ortiz and Peggy Jones of Waukegan; David Villalobos, Waukegan Fourth Ward Alderman; Celeste Flores of Most Blessed Trinity Catholic Parish (Waukegan); Susana Figueroa of Faith in Place; Brian Urbaszewski of Respiratory Health Association; Barbara Klipp of Incinerator Free Lake County; and Christine Nannicelli of the Sierra Club.

Midwest Energy News published a good recap of the March 9 proceedings.

The Waukegan coal plant, which sits on the lakefront near a predominately Latino neighborhood, is the largest source of air and water pollution in Lake County. The plant was named one of the nation’s worst environmental justice offenders in a 2012 NAACP report.

Clean Power Lake County is concerned that pollution from the coal plant is impairing air and water quality and contaminating soil. The plant also reduces access to open space.

The findings of the Illinois Advisory Committee will support the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ 2016 federal statutory enforcement report on environmental justice.

“As the product of an Illinois community that has suffered from environmental racism, I commend our Illinois Advisory Committee for addressing this issue. This will ensure that affected Illinois communities will be a prominent part of our national report to the President and Congress on environmental justice for communities of color,” said Martin Castro, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is an independent, bipartisan agency charged with studying and advising the President and Congress on civil rights matters and issuing federal enforcement reports.

For information about the reports and meetings of the Commission and its State Advisory Committees, visit www.usccr.gov.

Actress America Ferrera Visits Waukegan for Climate Change Documentary

America Ferrera and Clean Power Lake County members.
Actress America Ferrera meets with members of the Clean Power Lake County Campaign as part of a film shoot for the TV documentary series “Years of Living Dangerously.” [Clean Power Lake County photo.]

America Ferrera has won a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and an Emmy Award. She has appeared on Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people. She has been honored in Congress as an outstanding role model for young Latinas. And now she has visited Waukegan to help shine additional light on real people affected by climate change.

Ferrera, a project correspondent with the Emmy Award-winning television documentary series “Years of Living Dangerously,” met with members of the Clean Power Lake County Campaign last week to learn what we are doing to create a healthier, more livable community.

Ferrera also interviewed Mayor Wayne Motley and spoke to students at Abbott Middle School.

Ferrera’s Waukegan experiences will be part of an episode for the series’ second season.

Season 2 of “Years of Living Dangerously” will air on the National Geographic Channel this fall.

We’re excited to share the story of our campaign with a national audience—and will provide updates as the episode’s release date approaches.

 

One Earth Film Festival Comes to Lake County

OEFF Announcement

In its milestone fifth year, One Earth Film Festival will present four inspiring films—“Saving My Tomorrow,” “This Changes Everything,” “Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective,” and “A Farmer’s Road”—on March 5-6 in three venues around Lake County. In addition to illuminating the environmental topics of the day, the festival creates wide-ranging opportunities for dialogue and action.

The Clean Power Lake County Campaign and its lead partner, the Sierra Club Woods and Wetlands Group, are among the festival’s supporting organizations.

The Lake County films are part of the Midwest’s premier environmental film festival, which will feature 37 films in Chicago, Oak Park, River Forest, Evanston, Wilmette, and Lake and DuPage counties.

As the festival matures, planners continue to seek fresh approaches to reach new audiences. In the months leading up to this year’s festival, volunteers have worked closely with community partners in Chicago neighborhoods and surrounding towns, expanding opportunities to hold screenings in schools, churches, libraries, theaters and even a greenhouse, a brewery and a bike shop—the places where people learn, live, work, pray and play.

“One Earth Film Festival is committed to bringing its programs to more people, from Lincoln Park to Hyde Park, from West Town to Washington Heights, from Pilsen and the South Side, to Grayslake and Elmhurst,” said festival director Ana Garcia Doyle. “We believe the stories about our environment are universal and urgent but also personal and local. By screening films near where people live and work, we emphasize the values that drive this festival. We also reduce travel to the festival, which saves time and resources.”

March 5, 3 p.m.: One Earth Film Festival: “Saving My Tomorrow” (family film), Prairie Crossing Charter School, 1531 Jones Point Road, Grayslake, Illinois.

March 5, 7 p.m.: One Earth Film Festival: “This Changes Everything,” College of Lake County, Auditorium, Building C, 19351 W. Washington St., Grayslake, Illinois.

March 6, 1 p.m.: One Earth Film Festival: “Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective,” College of Lake County, Auditorium, Building C, 19351 W. Washington St., Grayslake, Illinois.

March 6, 4 p.m.One Earth Film Festival: “A Farmer’s Road,” Montessori School of Lake Forest, 13700 W. Laurel Drive, Lake Forest, Illinois.

The film showings in Lake County are free and open to the public. A $5 donation per film is appreciated. More information, trailers and tickets are available here (greencommunityconnections.org/2016-one-earth-film-fest-in-lake-county/). Information on the full festival is available at oneearthfilmfest.org.

Waukegan Voters Support Transition Plan for NRG Coal Plant: Poll

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NRG’s Waukegan coal plant, on the Lake Michigan shore, is the largest source of air and water pollution in Lake County. [Photo by Lisa Long/Clean Power Lake County]

In December, we went to Waukegan City Hall to deliver 2,082 petitions requesting formation of a task force to plan the responsible transition of NRG Energy’s outdated coal-fired power plant on the Waukegan lakefront.

This month, we went back to Waukegan City Hall—this time, to deliver the results of an exciting new bipartisan poll that bolsters our argument that Waukegan is ready to transition to renewable energy.

An overwhelming 70 percent of Waukegan voters participating in the poll support a transition plan that sets a retirement date for the coal plant, considers clean energy alternatives, and promotes redevelopment of polluted sites along the lakefront.

Nearly eight in 10 voters in the city want this part of Illinois to start producing more electricity from solar energy, according to the poll. Conversely, most voters want this area to produce less electricity from coal.

The Global Strategy Group poll, released January 14, involved interviews with 300 registered voters in Waukegan between December 11 and December 20, 2015. It was commissioned by the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. For full poll results, click sierraclub.org/waukegan.

Add the convincing poll evidence to the recommendations of Waukegan’s own lakefront development consultants, Edgewater Resources:  These give Mayor Wayne Motley and the Waukegan City Council ample justification to bring NRG to the table to discuss a responsible transition away from coal in Waukegan.

Mayor Motley says he has contacted NRG Energy more than once about meeting with community stakeholders (see Poll: Waukegan residents want transition from coal to clean energy ).

In the meantime, Clean Power Lake County volunteers will continue working to build support for the transition task force.

Creating a Low-Carbon Future

Much has been said and written in the two weeks since 190-plus countries came together in Paris to adopt the most ambitious climate change agreement in history. Even more must be done to implement a long-term global framework to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

What better way to start this new year than to listen to what President Obama said in Paris about achieving our climate objectives while creating new jobs, raising standards of living and lifting millions out of poverty:

One way to ensure we meet our climate commitments is to support a strong and just Clean Power Plan. Send a message now to the EPA to support the Clean Power Plan!