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.

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!

Lake County Lawmakers Lead Fight Against Climate Change

Hot Steam From Big Chimney ID-10068567
[Photo by Worradmu/Freedigitalphotos.net]

Six state assembly members from Lake County were among 53 members of the Illinois House and Senate who last month urged the EPA to set strong limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, and who pledged support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

“The EPA limits other dangerous pollutants such as mercury, arsenic, smog and soot pollution from power plants; it is time to do the same for carbon pollution,” said the December 1, 2014, letter to Gina McCarthy, head of the EPA.

The six Lake County officials who signed the letter are:

  • State Senator Julie Morrison, Senate District 29
  • State Senator Melinda Bush, Senate District 31
  • State Representative Elaine Nekritz, Assistant Majority Leader, House District 57
  • State Representative Scott Drury, House District 58
  • State Representative Carol Sente, House District 59
  • State Representative Sam Yingling, House District 62

Tony Award-winning director and Illinois native Anna Shapiro recently narrated a video thanking Illinois lawmakers for leading the fight against climate change—and helping make Illinois a leader in clean energy policy.

Here are some ways in which Illinois is well-positioned to meet the challenge of reducing carbon pollution:

  • Illinois led the nation in the number of communities using renewable energy between 2008 and 2012.
  • Energy efficiency investments have saved Illinois consumers roughly $1 billion since 2008.
  • More than 96,000 Illinoisans currently are employed across the state in clean energy jobs, according to a recent survey by the Clean Energy Trust. That number is roughly equal to the size of the state’s real estate and accounting industries—and it is expected to grow 9 percent this year.

The EPA is slated to finalize new carbon pollution standards by June 2015.