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.

Advertisements

Demanding a Forward-Looking Plan for NRG Coal Plant Site

Clean Power petitioners
Clean Power Lake County coalition members gather in the lobby of Waukegan’s City Hall, ready to deliver 2,082 petitions to public officials. [Photo by Karen Long MacLeod/courtesy of Clean Power Lake County Campaign]
Earlier this month, we proudly delivered 2,082 petitions from Waukegan residents to Mayor Wayne Motley and members of the Waukegan City Council, asking them to convene a task force of key stakeholders to address the future of NRG Energy’s coal-fired power plant on the Waukegan lakefront.

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.

We know that the 57-year-old plant endangers the health of people living in Waukegan and other Lake County communities. We believe that the plant also stands in the way of meaningful lakefront revitalization and economic growth in Waukegan.

Representing each of the city’s nine wards, we delivered a powerful message: Residents throughout the city want 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.

For detailed comments, see Waukegan Residents Deliver 2,082 Petitions to City Council Demanding Forward-Looking Plan for NRG Coal Plant Site.

Five of the nine city council members thanked us for actively reaching out to community members and demonstrating a strong commitment to bettering our city.

Mayor Motley has not yet committed to convening the transition task force, but said he has reached out to NRG Energy about coming to the table to talk.

So far, NRG has said “no.” According to a December 17, 2015, article in the Lake County News-Sun, NRG spokesman David Gaier said the Waukegan Generation Station will continue to function as a coal-burning plant indefinitely.

 

 

Praying for Environmental Justice

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Let relief come to all people impacted by pollution and climate change. 

Let NRG Energy work with us to end the burning of coal and to bring clean energy to our community.

Let us have the strength to continue our struggle for environmental justice.

Let our community, our lakefront and our environment enjoy a rebirth.

These simple prayers seemed to carry special power on Sunday, November 1, when voiced by Waukegan faith leaders and more than 150 Lake County residents commemorating Dia de los Muertos in a march and vigil organized by the Clean Power Lake County Campaign.

From senior citizens to toddlers, these community members processed solemnly, heads bowed, from Bowen Park to NRG Energy’s coal-fired power plant on the shore of Lake Michigan. (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.)

Near the coal plant, they listened intently as speakers explained how industrial pollution in Waukegan continues to pose significant health risks for local residents. They also heard how ongoing pollution from the NRG coal plant stands in the way of vibrant economic redevelopment that might attract recreational tourism and new businesses to Waukegan.

Together, they called on Waukegan Mayor Wayne Motley to bring NRG Energy to the table to set a clear retirement date for the coal plant and establish plans to protect impacted workers and remediate the site.

Building on that strong sentiment, Clean Power Lake County supporters have begun collecting petitions addressed to Mayor Motley and Waukegan’s City Council. The petitions urge Motley to convene a transition task force to plan for the future of the NRG coal plant site so Waukegan can move forward as a healthier community with meaningful options for lakefront revitalization and economic growth.

Click here to sign the Clean Power Lake County petition for clean air in Waukegan and Lake County!

 

Embracing a Vision of a More Beautiful Lakefront

Volunteers pick up trash on Waukegan's beach.
More than 120 people who live near Waukegan’s coal-fired power plant collect bags of trash at Waukegan Municipal Beach during Clean Power Lake County Campaign’s second annual beach cleanup. [Photo by Karen Long MacLeod/Clean Power Lake County Campaign]
As morning showers gave way to afternoon sunshine on August 23, approximately 120 Lake County residents headed to the beach on Waukegan’s beautiful lakefront to rally for clean air, clean water, and clean energy.

First, we swept the beach and the adjoining dunes to take care of the pollution we can control–like litter–as part of our second annual beach cleanup. Then we called for NRG Energy to act to retire its old and dirty coal-fired power plant, which stands less than a mile north of Waukegan’s swimming beach.

Clean Power Lake County volunteers hold "We Are Waukegan" canvas banner
With NRG Energy’s dirty coal-fired power plant in the background, volunteers hold a canvas banner proclaiming why Waukeganites care about clean air and clean water. [Photo by Karen Long MacLeod/Clean Power Lake County Campaign.]
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.

“For too long, corporate polluters like NRG Energy have taken advantage of our lakefront and made our families sick,” Maryfran Troha told volunteers as they finished the August 23 cleanup.

Troha, a lifelong Waukegan resident, represents Clean Power Lake County coalition partners Christ Episcopal Church and the League of Women Voters of Lake County.

“I’m sick of it. I’m ready for a clean Waukegan for all of us because we deserve so much better,” Troha said.

Students with clean air and climate action signs
Students participating in the beach cleanup and rally make it clear that they want clean air. [Photo by Karen Long MacLeod/Clean Power Lake County Campaign.]
The most immediate thing we can do to help protect Waukegan’s lakefront is to attend the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Act hearing on September 2, 2015. The hearing will focus on the operating permit for NRG’s coal-fired power plant in Waukegan.

RSVP to stand with Clean Power Lake County and Sierra Club to fight for clean air in Waukegan and Lake County!

Event Summary

What: Illinois EPA Hearing on Waukegan Coal Plant
Where: Illinois Beach State Park Resort, 1 Lakefront Drive, Zion, IL 60099 [map]
When: Wednesday, September 2, 2015, 7 p.m. .
RSVP and questions: Alex Morgan

Back to the Beach: Taking Care of Waukegan’s Lakefront

A year ago, the Clean Power Lake County Campaign gathered more than 120 people from all walks of life to clean up Waukegan’s Municipal Beach and to demand new clean-energy policies for their hometowns. Students, parents and senior citizens had one thing in common: outrage toward NRG Energy, whose coal-fired power plants are some of the worst carbon polluters in Illinois.

NRG’s coal plants have faced numerous lawsuits for violations of the Clean Air Act, violations related to high levels of dangerous pollutants in groundwater near coal ash dumps adjacent to the coal plants, and repeated sulfur dioxide violations.

That’s why concerned citizens were willing to draw a line across the sand as part of Clean Power Lake County’s “Hands Across the Sand” event:

Clearly, standing together makes us stronger.

“I’m still convinced there’s a lot of power in people,” said Tracy Fox of Peoria Families Against Toxic Waste in Peoria, Illinois, stated. “We in central Illinois stand in solidarity with Lake County, and hope we can do great things together.”

This sentiment was echoed by Maria Contreras, a Waukegan High School student: “I know that I can make a difference.”

Now we have another opportunity to stand together. The Clean Power Lake County Campaign will host its second annual Waukegan beach cleanup on August 23. Together, we will celebrate our beautiful lakefront and discuss how we can protect it in the long run.

Event Summary
WhatClean Power Lake County Beach Cleanup/Limpieza de Nuestra Playa
Where: Waukegan Municipal Beach, 201 Sea Horse Drive, Waukegan, IL 60085
When: Sunday, August 23, 2015, 1 p.m.
RSVP and questions: Alex Morgan

Celebrating President Obama’s Clean Power Plan in Waukegan

CPLC at Waukegan lakefront to celebrate Clean Power Plan.
More than 50 people at Waukegan’s lakefront celebrate the release of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. [Photo courtesy of El Centro Padre Gary Graf.]
More than 50 residents of Waukegan and nearby Lake County communities had good reason to smile on Monday, August 10: We were gathered on the Waukegan lakefront—in the shadow of NRG’s coal-fired power plant—to celebrate the recent release of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, featuring the first national carbon pollution protections.

And then, of course, we had cake.

Clean Power Lake County's celebratory cake in Waukegan on August 10, 2015.
It wouldn’t be a celebration without a cake. Ours read, “Thank you, President Obama, for acting on climate by creating the first-ever federal standards on carbon pollution from power plants! #ActOnClimate”. [Photo courtesy of El Centro Padre Gary Graf.]

Now it’s up to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to craft a statewide plan to comply with the federal plan.

Speaker montage 2_crop
Speakers called on the IEPA to prioritize environmental justice communities like Waukegan and Little Village: (clockwise) Kim Wasserman-Nieto, Jennifer Witherspoon, Alderman David Villalobos of Waukegan, and Yuridia Carbajal. [Photos courtesy of El Centro Padre Gary Graf.]
Illinois State Sen. Melinda Bush in Waukegan on August 10, 2015.
State Sen. Melinda Bush sees the Clean Power Plan as a huge opportunity to boost the economy and reduce dangerous air pollution. [Photo courtesy of El Centro Padre Gary Graf.]
However, it’s up to people like us to make sure the IEPA plan prioritizes environmental justice communities like Waukegan and Little Village, according to Alderman David Villalobos of Waukegan, Kim Wasserman-Nieto of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization in Chicago,  Jennifer Witherspoon of Lake County Branch NAACP, and Yuridia Carbajal of El Centro Padre Gary Graf/Most Blessed Trinity Church in Waukegan.

The Waukegan celebration was one of five events co-sponsored during the week by the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. Related events included a celebration and petition delivery in Alton, and press conferences in Springfield and Chicago.

For more details about the Waukegan celebration, read our press release and the Lake County News-Sun article.

If you’re interested in joining the fight for clean air, clean water, and clean energy in northeastern Illinois, contact Clean Power Lake County at cleanpowerlc@gmail.com.

President Obama Releases Landmark Clean Power Plan

In a video released on August 2, 2015, President Obama called the final version of America's Clean Power Plan "the biggest, most important step we've ever taken to combat climate change."
In a video released on August 2, 2015, President Obama called the final version of America’s Clean Power Plan “the biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.”

Clean Power Lake County launched in 2013 with the goal of getting Waukegan to transition from dirty coal to clean energy. Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Obama Administration bring us closer to that goal with the release of the final version of the landmark Clean Power Plan.

“Power plants are the single biggest source of the harmful carbon pollution that contributes to climate change,” President Obama said in a video released on Saturday, August 2. “But until now,  there have been no federal limits to the amount of that pollution those plants can dump into the air.”

Carbon pollution is the main contributor to climate disruption.

Carbon pollution also poses significant risks close to home. Because many power plants are located in disadvantaged communities, dangerous carbon pollution has a disproportionately negative effect on low-income people and people of color, including higher rates of heart attacks, asthma, and premature death.

Here’s some context: Last year, the Respiratory Health Association found that one in three children here in Waukegan had been diagnosed with asthma or showed symptoms of asthma.

Until today, there were no limits on the amount of carbon pollution that power plants could dump into the air to wreak havoc on our health and our climate.

By finalizing the centerpiece of his Climate Action Plan, the first regulations to reduce dangerous carbon emissions from existing power plants, President Obama is making history.

By cleaning up dirty power plants, the No. 1 source of life-threatening carbon pollution, these protections will ensure that our kids, our workforce and our communities are healthier. These protections also will create much-needed jobs as we fight climate disruption.

Clean Power Lake County will commemorate this historic moment–and talk about what it means for our community–on Monday, August 10, at 10 a.m. at the Stiner Pavilion on Waukegan’s lakefront. Please join us for this celebration!