Launching the Lake County Climate Action Pledge

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At a time when the federal government has abdicated its role in climate leadership, public officials and residents across the country are stepping forward to take local action against the climate crisis.

Leading the way in Lake County, Illinois, is Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor. He recently launched an initiative in partnership with the Sierra Club to encourage local community leaders and public officials 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 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 new initiative consists of three pillars:

  • Move Lake County beyond coal
  • Adopt ambitious clean energy goals
  • Build climate-resilient infrastructure

The solutions to these issues are related to solutions to serious social issues, said Dulce Ortiz, a Waukegan resident who spoke at the rally on behalf of the Sierra Club.

“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,” Ortiz said. “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.”

Eight public officials have already 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
  • State Representative Sam Yingling

Both the Lake County News-Sun and Daily Herald published good recaps of the August 26 rally.

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Waukegan Beach Rally Focuses on Need for Countywide Transition to Clean Energy

More than 100 people who live near Waukegan’s coal-fired power say they are “Moving Toward a #CleanWaukegan” during Clean Power Lake County’s Annual Beach Cleanup. [Photo by Dylan Blake]
At time when the federal government has abdicated its role in climate leadership, Lake County residents who support local action against the climate crisis will gather at the Waukegan lakefront on Saturday, August 26, for the 4th Annual Clean Power Lake County (CPLC) Waukegan Beach Rally and Cleanup. We will join elected officials in focusing on the need to transition Lake County beyond coal in order to create new jobs in the clean energy economy and make sure Lake County’s communities are healthy for decades to come.

In July, Mayor Sam Cunningham and the Waukegan City Council responded to the climate crisis by passing a resolution committing the City of Waukegan to uphold the carbon reduction goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Waukegan is the only Illinois city with an operating coal plant to sign on to the agreement. The Waukegan coal plant, owned by New Jersey-based NRG Energy, is the largest point source of carbon dioxide emissions in Lake County, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The coal plant also is a major source of water pollution, discharging more than 8 million gallons of tainted water, including coal ash wastewater, every day directly into Lake Michigan, according to Dulce Ortiz, co-leader of Clean Power Lake County, a grassroots campaign supported by community, faith, health, and environmental groups.

Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor will be the keynote speaker at the lakefront rally. The Republican official, recognized in 2014 as one of six rising stars in Illinois politics, has worked tirelessly to promote economic development and investments in transportation infrastructure. In December, at an event promoting a national documentary that featured Waukegan as a symbol of the debate over our country’s energy future, Lawlor said that redevelopment of the Waukegan harbor cannot happen with a coal-burning power plant on the lakefront.

Also speaking at the rally will be Angelina Jose, a Waukegan High School graduate who now attends Northwestern University. As an organizing fellow with Clean Power Lake County, Jose has spent the summer helping community members understand how Waukegan can become a leader in sustainability by saying “yes” to clean energy, sustainable economic development, and local job creation.

Event Summary
What: Waukegan Beach Rally and Cleanup
Where: Waukegan Municipal Beach, 201 E. Seahorse Drive, Waukegan, IL
When:  Saturday, August 26, 2017, 10 a.m.

The Waukegan Beach Rally and Cleanup is organized by Clean Power Lake County.

 

We Applaud Waukegan for Committing to Paris Agreement Goals

After over 4 years of climate/environmental advocacy, Clean Power Lake County members commend Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham and the City Council for committing to the Paris Climate Agreement and Compact of Mayors. [Photo by Dylan Blake.]
After more than 4 years of advocating a coal-to-clean energy plan for Waukegan, Clean Power Lake County and our partners now commend Mayor Sam Cunningham and City Council members for making a commitment to act on climate: On July 17, 2017, the Waukegan City Council unanimously passed a resolution committing the City of Waukegan to adopt, honor, and uphold the Paris Climate Agreement goals and authorizing the mayor to commit the city to the Compact of Mayors.

On the Monday night of the vote, 40-plus members of Clean Power Lake County filled the lion’s share of seats in the council chambers. We listened intently as council members voiced their votes one by one. When the eighth alderman said “aye” into the microphone, we leapt to our feet, clapping and cheering.

The City of Waukegan’s decision comes on the heels of President Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States would exit the Paris Agreement. The central aim of the historic international climate accord is to keep a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Waukegan now joins 357 other cities that have committed to upholding the Paris goals and reducing carbon pollution locally.

Waukegan is the only Illinois city with an active coal plant to sign on to the agreement. The coal plant is owned by New Jersey-based NRG Energy . It is the largest point source of carbon dioxide emissions in Lake County, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Coal-fired power plants are responsible for one-third of U.S. carbon emissions. Reducing carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants was the signature policy of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, designed to meet reduction targets under the Paris Agreement.

“Clean Power Lake County and our partners look forward to working with Mayor Cunningham and City Council in developing a climate action plan that moves Waukegan beyond our legacy of pollution and positions our city as a clean energy leader. This work lies hand-in-hand with the mayor’s goal to revitalize our lakefront and local economy and we encourage City Hall to not waste any time in getting started,” said Rev. Eileen Shanley-Roberts, co-chair of the Clean Power Lake County Campaign.

“Sierra Club applauds Mayor Cunningham and the City of Waukegan for their commitment to climate leadership at this critical moment in our country’s history,” said Julio Guzman, campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “We look forward to working with Mayor Cunningham in developing a strong and just plan to reduce carbon pollution and bring new clean energy investments and jobs to Waukegan. After years of community members speaking out on climate change and urging Waukegan to move beyond coal, this marks an important step forward in charting a new course on environmental leadership for our city.”

Now let’s get to work and reach those goals. Click here to find out how you can get involved.

 

Advocating Big Ideas for 2050

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Preventing urban sprawl, controlling carbon emissions, and protecting water supplies are among the top challenges facing Chicago regional planners, according to Lake County residents attending a June 29, 2016, workshop about the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) ON TO 2050 plan.

Approximately 50 members of the Clean Power Lake County Campaign, Livable Lake County, and other community groups participated in the recent workshop in Waukegan, Illinois. The workshop was organized by the League of Women Voters of Lake County.

The workshop touched on land use, water, open space, sustainability, community development, transportation, and other growth-oriented topics.

Here are some of the “2050 big ideas” that Waukegan workshop participants offered to address looming challenges:

  • Recognize that environmental opportunities are economic opportunities—especially when overlaid with equity considerations.
  • Adopt policies and regulations that foster sustainable transportation, clean energy, and recycling, to mitigate climate change.
  • Promote creative ways to reduce carbon emissions, including improved transportation planning.
  • Make mature cities more attractive and livable, with high-density cores, to limit urban sprawl.
  • Encourage new types of in-fill development to limit sprawl and the need to invest in new infrastructure.
  • Decommission the Route 53 corridor to preserve open space, clean air, and livability.
  • Connect public transit to jobs, especially for people who work second and third shifts.
  • Create corporate-sponsored van pools to job-heavy areas like business parks.
  • Promote express busses.
  • Coordinate brownfield solar redevelopment.
  • Consolidate overlapping governmental units.
  • Ensure that elected officials reflect the make-up of their communities

CMAP will continue to collect input about the ON TO 2050 draft snapshot through August 15, 2016.

 

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!

 

 

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.