CPLC: 2020 Highlights

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After the year we just had, the term “2020 vision” will never sound quite the same. 

2020 brought more than its share of tragedies and challenges, yet Clean Power Lake County (CPLC) had moments worth celebrating. We’re excited to share some of these moments with you because they highlight the many ways our supporters continue to show up to fight for environmental justice in Lake County. 

January 

  • January 6: CPLC joined Illinois Communities for Coal Ash Cleanup to comment on the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s draft rules for coal ash impoundments. 
  • January 6: The Waukegan City Council passed a resolution to support Illinois’ Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA). The resolution recognized that environmental risks and burdens fall disproportionately on communities of color—and that these burdens cumulatively contribute to climate change. CPLC supports CEJA as a solution to both environmental racism and climate change at the local level.
  • January 14: CPLC co-chair Celeste Flores traveled to Texas for EPA public hearings on the proposed Miscellaneous Organic Chemical Manufacturing rule. The proposed rule included regulations on ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions. Representatives of environmental justice organizations from across the nation attended the hearings. 
  • January 20: CPLC co-chair and Mano a Mano Executive Director Dulce Ortiz received a Drum Major Award from Waukegan Township. Announced on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the awards recognize people who stand up for human rights and civil rights in their personal and professional lives.
  • January 21: CPLC joined other members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition (ICJC) at a press conference to demand that legislators block Trump-backed fossil fuel bailouts. ICJC said the bailouts exacerbate climate change, pollution, and energy inequity.
  • January 21: The public finally learned that Medline Industries in Waukegan had initiated a temporary shutdown of EtO operations on December 13.
  • January 27: CPLC helped deliver 38,000 petitions from Illinois residents urging Gov. J.B. Pritzker to pass CEJA. Colin Byers of Waukegan spoke on our behalf. He was accompanied by Steering Committee members Rev. Eileen Shanley-Roberts, Eddie Sandoval, and Celeste Flores.
  • January 29: Gov. J.B. Pritzker mentioned clean energy as a priority during his State of the State address. (Let’s continue to urge the governor to act on this priority in 2021; see actions at the end of this post.)

February

  • February 4: Co-chair Celeste Flores attended the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., as a guest of Sen. Tammy Duckworth to help shine a light on environmental justice and “raise awareness of the fact that these communities face public health challenges at alarming rates while too many in power look the other way.”
  • February 18: CPLC signed a joint organization letter calling on the EPA to reduce EtO and other emissions from chemical plants to decrease the risk of cancer.
  • February 21: Co-chair Dulce Ortiz spoke at an Illinois House Public Utilities Committee hearing, urging legislators to protect communities against the harmful impacts of continued fossil fuel bailouts by passing CEJA and growing an equitable clean energy economy.

March

April  

May

August

  • August 11: CPLC joined national environmental justice organizations in sending a letter to the EPA opposing attempts to undermine the independent scientific standard for EtO.
  • August 12-13: Ten CPLC volunteers delivered public comments at the first of two sets of coal ash hearings hosted by the Illinois Pollution Control Board. 

September

October

  • October 7: Anticipating that CEJA might come up for a vote during the scheduled veto session, CPLC partnered with ICJC to create a video with our perspective on the need for CJEA.  Although the veto session was cancelled, the video remains a strategic tool to help move legislators during the next session.
  • October 31: As of this date, 1,712 people had signed a joint Sierra Club/Faith in Place/Eco-Justice Collaborative/CARE petition calling for strong coal ash rules. More than 310 petitions contained personalized messages.

November

December

Last, but not least

  • CPLC, partnering with the Illinois Environmental Council Education Fund, launched the “Support CPLC” fundraising campaign. Proceeds will help us ramp up public work to transition northeastern Lake County toward a clean, sustainable future and to fight environmental injustice in our community. As of today, we are more than halfway toward our $30K goal. To support CPLC, please make a gift here.

2021 vision

We predict that CEJA will pass in 2021—with your help! So we must tell our elected officials to pass CEJA now!

We have much justice work to do this year. Despite 2021’s disturbing start, we look forward to continuing this work, together, to create a more livable, more just world.  

CPLC Launches Fundraiser to Expand Clean Energy and Environmental Justice Work

Clean Power Lake County fundraiser: bit.ly/Support-CPLC
[Rawpixel/Pixabay image]
Clean Power Lake County, partnering with the Illinois Environmental Council Education Fund (Springfield, Ill.), has launched “Support CPLC,” a fundraising campaign to help us ramp up public work to transition northeastern Lake County toward a clean, sustainable future and to fight environmental injustice in our community.

Since beginning in 2013 as part of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, Clean Power Lake County has accomplished great things: annual beach clean-ups, adoption of a Climate Action Pledge by the Lake County Board, and passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA). Our fight for clean energy solutions even captured national attention through an episode of the National Geographic documentary series Years of Living Dangerously! We had gained respect as a powerful voice in the community.

By 2018, however, the national and local political landscapes had changed. Clean Power Lake County was no longer a viable part of the Beyond Coal Campaign. That meant we could no longer rely on paid organizers to handle administrative and organizing work.

For the last two years, Clean Power Lake County’s core membership has continued to work for environmental justice—entirely as a volunteer-led, grassroots organization. We continue to hold a place at the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition’s Climate Table. We are a member of the Illinois Environmental Council. We participate in numerous state and national policy groups. We support each other and the community we love by sharing information and educating youth and church groups about current environmental threats in our area. We do our best to organize our community for strategic actions to continue our core mission: moving Lake County away from polluting industries toward a clean energy future. We do this with no paid staff, no funding, and little discretionary time.

While 2020 has brought us many new challenges, it also has brought us new opportunities. The Illinois Environmental Council Education Fund (IECEF) recently agreed to act as our fiscal agent and awarded us a seed grant to help fund two internships.

All donations to “Support CPLC” will directly support two CPLC interns. The interns will immediately expand the work we can do to transition northeastern Lake County toward a clean, sustainable future and equip future EJ leaders to engage the people most affected by environmental degradation.

The IECEF is a recognized tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization. All donations made on behalf of CPLC to the Illinois Environmental Council Education Fund are tax-deductible.

To support CPLC, please make a gift here.

To donate by mail, please use our downloadable donation form and send a check payable to Illinois Environmental Council Education Fund (IECEF). Be sure to note “CPLC internship” on the memo line of the check.

For more information, please contact Celeste Flores or Rev. Eileen Shanley-Roberts at cplc@cleanpowerlakecounty.org or 224-212-9156.

 

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CPLC Welcomes Eddie and Leah to the Steering Committee

By Whitney Richardson

Clean Power Lake County is excited to introduce the newest members of its steering committee: Eddie Flores and Leah Hartung.

Let’s learn a little about them and the work they’ve done so far with CPLC.

Eddie Flores sitting on park bench
Eddie Flores connected with CPLC while organizing school walkout to support the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA). He got involved to learn about environmental justice and how he could help his community.

Meet Eddie Flores

Eddie Flores, 18, was born and raised in Waukegan, Illinois. He’s currently studying at College of Lake County but plans to take a gap year in 2021. He enjoys skating, backpacking, hiking, kayaking and canoeing, cooking, tinkering with electronics, and playing video games. He’s also really passionate about the environment.

Eddie reached out to CPLC in September 2019 while organizing a walkout at his school to support the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA). He had learned about teens participating in the global climate strikes and wanted to take part. When he couldn’t find any strikes nearby, he decided to organize one. He said CPLC provided him with helpful resources and information on what was going on in his city. He decided to get involved so he could learn about environmental justice and how to help his community.

Eddie has done a lot so far—speaking about coal ash rules at a local listening session last fall and at a statewide virtual hearing this year; advocating for CEJA with elected officials in Springfield; and speaking at a youth town hall during this year’s virtual lobby day. 

Next, he plans to do a year of youth outreach. He wants to have biweekly conversations on Zoom about environmental issues like Superfund sites, ethylene oxide (EtO), plastic pollution, and the impacts of climate change, including floods and fires. (“This will be a chill type of Zoom setting that’s more of a conversation rather than a boring type of presentation!” he says.) He also plans to continue sharing resources to help youth learn more about local issues and ways they can get involved.

“Growing up, I was never really taught about the coal plant or our Superfund sites in school and feel like it is something that really needs to be taught. I hope to connect people—especially youth—to this fight since we’re the ones that are going to be inheriting this planet,” Eddie said.

What will the world look like when  Eddie has accomplished these goals? How will he know his work has been “done”? 

“Achieving these goals would result in students growing up here having learned about Waukegan’s history of pollution and all of the ways in which corporations have exploited this town. Kids growing up here understanding that the reason why 1 in 3 kids here have asthma is due to the coal plant. The truth of the matter is, this work will never be done as communities of color are going to continue being hit the hardest by the effects of climate change. Communities like mine are all over the world dealing with environmental justice issues like flooding, fires, droughts, storms, pollution and much more—all caused or intensified by corporations and money-hungry CEOs that don’t care how many people they’ll kill or what world they’ll leave their children to inherit.”

Leah Hartung hiking in mountains
Leah Hartung got involved with CPLC as a way to act on her passions for environmental justice, energy policy, and helping her community. She develops original content for CPLC’s Instagram account.

Meet Leah Hartung

Leah Hartung, originally from Libertyville, Illinois, is currently a junior at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She’s double majoring in environmental science and economics. 

When everything was cancelled earlier this year because of the pandemic, Leah wanted to spend her free time helping her community. She had learned about CPLC through an environmental event she attended in high school. Since she was interested in environmental justice—particularly energy policy—she reached out to see how she could get involved.

Leah is the mastermind behind CPLC’s Twitter and Instagram accounts. She develops a lot of original content for Instagram because she wants it to be a place where people in Lake County can learn about local environmental issues and injustices.

As a steering committee member, Leah wants to grow CPLC’s social media presence and reputation as the place to go for crucial environmental and social justice information in Lake County. 

She also hopes to see CPLC grow “as we find ways to involve all our amazing members during the pandemic!”

What will the world look like when Leah has accomplished these goals? How will she know her work has been “done”?

“I would love to see high engagement on the posts, particularly seeing lots of our followers posting our content onto their own personal accounts because they find it useful. I would love to see around 1,000 followers on Instagram and 100 likes per post!” 

Leah’s goal can be reached with your supportso be sure to follow CPLC!

Whitney Richardson lives in Vernon Hills, Illinois, and recently completed a Master of Science degree in international environmental studies. 

President-Elect Biden: Make Right on 7 Green Priorities

President-Elect Joe Biden
President-Elect Joe Biden, shown speaking at a 2020 campaign event. [“Joe Biden” by Gage Skidmore, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0]

By Whitney Richardson

Dear President-Elect Biden,

We see you packing your (figurative) bags in preparation for your move into the White House. As you make plans to enact your presidential agenda, we urge you to use your executive powers to simultaneously and swiftly make right on all of the following:

We must remember we are here under the condition that our planet—experienced through our micro-environments—can retain the capacity to sustain us. It’s time to restore this essential lesson within our collective conscience. Climate change won’t wait. Our health won’t wait. Meaningful action can’t wait.

Sincerely, 

Clean Power Lake County
Waukegan, Illinois

Whitney Richardson lives in Vernon Hills, Illinois, and recently completed a Master of Science degree in international environmental studies. 

CPLC Members to Lawmakers: Pass CEJA Now

Clean Power Lake County activists urge Illinois lawmakers to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act in 2020.
Dulce Ortiz, co-chair of Clean Power Lake County, and other Waukegan activists urge Illinois lawmakers to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act in 2020.

Storms are becoming more intense. Sea levels are rising. Disastrous wildfires are destroying record acreage (2.5 million this year) and impairing air quality over multistate regions. Climate change and COVID-19 are causing unprecedented public health and economic crises. There is no time to wait for cleaner, healthier, more affordable energy.

And we don’t have to wait. The Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) will create thousands of jobs in Illinois’ growing clean energy industry—without raising taxes or hiking utility rates. No wonder 82% of Illinois voters support CEJA, according to a May 2020 poll released by the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition. 

The thing is, Illinois lawmakers have yet to pass CEJA. So Dulce Ortiz, David Villalobos, and Eduardo Flores of Clean Power Lake County want to know: What is Gov. J.B. Pritzker waiting for?

CEJA will:

  • Put jobs and equity at the center of a clean energy future, creating well-paying jobs in the communities where they are needed the most
  • Guarantee cost savings on electricity bills for consumers through capacity market reform
  • Put Illinois on a path to 100% renewable energy by 2050 by taking advantage of the falling cost of wind and solar power and focusing on energy efficiency
  • Provide a just transition for fossil fuel workers and communities
  • Reduce air and water pollution from the fossil fuel industry

As we approach the final legislative session of 2020, will you stand for clean energy, clean air, and clean water? Tell lawmakers that CEJA must take precedence in the November veto session: Sign our “Pass CEJA” petition today.

 

CPLC Members Call for Stronger Coal Ash Rules

It is part of Clean Power Lake County’s DNA to support state action on toxic coal ash ponds.  So when the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) held its August hearing on proposed rules for the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act, we were there to call for stronger rules. 

Why was that important? Because the groundbreaking Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act provided an important framework for addressing toxic coal ash waste (see CPLC Celebrates as Governor Signs Milestone Coal Ash Cleanup Bill Into Law) and a rulemaking process. However, it did not establish enforcement standards. Instead, it tasked the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) with drafting the actual rules for enforcing the law. 

The August hearing was IEPA’s first opportunity to testify in defense of its proposed rules. It also was the first time that industry representatives, environmental groups, and other public stakeholders could ask IEPA about the proposed rules.

Several Clean Power Lake County members—including folks who participated in IEPA coal ash listening sessions in Waukegan last September—made virtual statements during the public comment periods of the August hearing. 

Mary Mathews represents the League of Women Voters of Lake County, a coalition member of Clean Power Lake County. Mathews demanded strict measures for coal ash: “In order to protect the groundwater’s chemical integrity, rules for cleanup and closure of coal ash sites must provide permanent protection from coal ash pollution.”

She also stressed the importance of public participation in the decision-making process: “The public has the right to know about pollution levels, dangers to health and environment, and proposed policies and options. Accordingly, the rules should include expanded outreach and require that opportunities, materials, and documents be made available to non-English speaking stakeholders. Additionally, hearings should be held in easily accessible locations, at convenient times, and, when possible, in the area concerned.”

Leah Hartung, an intern for Clean Power Lake County, stressed that improper coal ash management makes drinking water unsafe: “Since groundwater monitoring began in 2010, the groundwater at the Waukegan power plant has been found 400 times to have the contaminants related to coal ash above allowable levels. This is unacceptable. Safe drinking water is a human right, not a privilege.”

When IPCB holds its September 29-October 1 hearing—its second and final hearing on the proposed coal ash rules—Clean Power Lake County members will be there once again. We will stress the importance of adopting the strongest possible rules to protect us and residents of other communities burdened by coal ash pollution. 

Here’s how you can help: Email your comments to Clerk of the Board Don Brown by October 15.

Want background information to use to prepare written comments? Download Coal Ash Rulemaking Document by Prairie Rivers Network and Coal Ash Backgrounder by Earthjustice.

Illinois has the highest concentration of coal ash impoundments in the country.

There are two unlined coal ash ponds at the NRG Energy coal-fired power plant on Waukegan’s lakefront.

Tell Us Why “CEJA Can’t Wait”

 

We want lawmakers to know how much we want the Clean Energy Jobs Act to be enacted. We also want to promote awareness about this important bill. So we are creating a “CEJA Can’t Wait” social media campaign featuring Clean Power Lake County volunteers and supporters. 

Just picture your photo and words in a “CEJA Can’t Wait” post like this: 
 
Sample CPLC volunteer quote about CEJA
 
Will you participate in our campaign by speaking up for CEJA? It’s easy! 
  • Go to our CEJA Quote Form
  • Tell us why, for you, CEJA can’t wait.
  • Include a photo of yourself (if you are willing) to accompany your statement. 

Need a little help crafting your quote? We’ve got you covered. Download our CEJA fact sheet, including sample phrases you can personalize. 

Question? Please contact leah@faithinplace.org

We look forward to your responses!

Celebrate Freedom, Reflect on Racism

[Tess/Unsplash photo]
On June 19, 1865, more than two years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, enslaved Black people in Texas finally learned that they were free.

Today, Juneteenth is a time to celebrate that freedom. It also is a time to reflect on what we can do to fight actively against the systemic inequities that Black communities face: police brutality, voter suppression, housing discrimination and more.

Octavius Hayes, a member of Clean Power Lake County’s steering committee, explains what’s at stake:

The accumulation of incidents of racism, police brutality and murder of so many Black and brown people over the last few years alone has clearly left an indelible mark on young people, especially young people of color. But these types of violent acts of racism and bigotry are nothing new, predating the founding of our great nation. Therefore, as a nation, as Illinoisans, and as community members of Lake County, it isn’t simply enough to expect better. We must unite to demand better, and do the work of dismantling systemic racism, to ensure the safety and dignity of all people. Otherwise, this nation is doomed to continue to repeat the same mistakes that only further divide us at a time when we should be coming together to find solutions for imminent threats to humanity—such as climate change—that transcend race, economics, and borders.

 

 

Black Lives Matter: Let’s Talk About Environmental Justice 

Environmental justice for all.
[Leah Hartung/Canva image]
By Leah Hartung

For environmentalism to be successful and complete, it must include social justice. Environmental degradation and climate change do not affect the population equally: The brunt of the burden falls on marginalized communities. With the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the nation, sparked by the murder of George Floyd, it is necessary for environmentalists to discuss the physical as well as the social environment for Black people in the United States.

The social environment for Black people in America has long been a painful one. America has a long history of police brutality disproportionately affecting Black people. In 1927 and 1928, Black residents of Chicago constituted 30 percent of the victims of police killings, even though they only made up 5 percent of the area’s population, according to an Illinois Crime Survey cited in Smithsonian Magazine. Today, about 1 in 1,000 Black men in the United States die at the hands of the police, according to the Los Angeles Times. Black women are 1.4 times more likely than white women to be killed by the police (Los Angeles Times). Black men, according to the Washington Post, are 2.5 times more likely than their white counterparts to die during an encounter with the police, adjusting for the age of the person shot, whether the person suffered from mental illness, whether the person was attacking a police officer, and for the crime rate in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred. 

The high rate of unarmed Black Americans killed by the police causes more incidents of depression, stress, and other mental health issues among Black people, even if they did not have a direct connection to the Black Americans who lost their lives, according to a study by Boston University’s School of Health and University of Pennsylvania.

Yet it is not only the social environment that hurts black people in America. The physical environment that Black communities live in also continues to cause them harm at disproportionate rates. Black Americans face a 54 percent higher health burden from air pollution compared to the overall population, according to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency, which cited historical racism and economic inequality as major factors for the disparity. Facilities emitting particulate pollution are more likely to be in Black communities, causing Black Americans to experience more asthma, a greater likelihood of heart attacks, and premature death. According to an analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine, Black Americans are 3 times more likely to die from exposure to air pollutants than white Americans.

The higher burden of air pollution on Black communities is particularly dangerous during this pandemic. A preliminary nationwide study from Harvard University found exposure to high levels of air pollution correlated with higher mortality rates from COVID-19. This finding, coupled with health disparities and unequal access to care in Black communities, helps explain why Black residents only account for 29% of Chicago’s population—yet 52% of those testing positive and 72% of those who had died as of April 6, 2020, were Black (WBEZ). 

Additionally, because of Black communities’ fewer resources, economic disenfranchisement, and unstable housing, they are more vulnerable to climate change as it intensifies natural disasters such as heat waves, flooding, and hurricanes, said Janaya Khan, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, in The Root. Climate change will further erode the disparity between Black and white communities.

Let us take this moment to reflect on how the environment in America is not the same for all of its citizens.

Leah Hartung is from Libertyville, Illinois, and is a rising junior at Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia) studying environmental science.

CPLC Celebrates LGBTQ Pride Month

[42 North/Pexels photo]
As a community organization committed to justice for all people, Clean Power Lake County is pleased to celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month. We gratefully acknowledge the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.

June 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of annual LGBTQ+ Pride traditions. The first Pride march in New York City was held on June 28, 1970, on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, a tipping point for the gay liberation movement in the United States.

LGBTQ+ celebrations may look a little different this year—as Americans cautiously begin to resume public life in the midst of a global pandemic; as protesters across the country call for justice in the violent death of George Floyd; as police in riot gear fire rubber bullets, pepper spray, and tear gas at protesters and rioters. Yet LGBTQ+ celebrations are as important as ever, or perhaps even more important than ever: Pride Month offers us ways to protest discrimination and violence as well as to promote the dignity, equal rights, and self-affirmation of LGBTQ+ people.