CPLC: 2022 highlights

  • Dulce Ortiz in video clip
  • Dulce Ortiz at podium in Waukegan City Hall
  • CPLC interns in Facebook post
  • Eddie Flores poses with environmental coloring book.
  • Fire and smoke from explosion in a middle of a cityy

WE DID IT! In 2022, after working together as a community for more than 10 years, we shut down the last two coal-burning units at the Waukegan Generating Station’s Lake Michigan site.

The coal plant’s closure definitely stands out as the biggest milestone of the year for Clean Power Lake County (CPLC). Yet it is just one of several moments in 2022 worth noting.

January

January 11: State Rep. Rita Mayfield and State Sen. Adriane Johnson introduced legislation (House Bill 4358/Senate Bill 3073) requiring removal of all coal ash from the Waukegan Generating Station site. The toxic waste has contaminated groundwater at the Lake Michigan site for more than 10 years.

February

February 18: CPLC supporters met virtually with state legislators to lobby for bills addressing environmental injustices in the issuance of permits, requiring removal of all coal ash from the Waukegan Generating Station site, and more.

February 25: The Illinois Senate passed a bill requiring removal of all coal ash from the Waukegan Generating Station site. If enacted, it would safeguard Lake Michigan, the main source of drinking water for nearly 6 million people.

April

April 7: Despite widespread community support and Illinois Senate approval, a bill requiring removal of all coal ash from the Waukegan Generating Station site did not advance in the Illinois House during the last week of the spring legislative session.

April 27: ComEd filed new rates with the Illinois Commerce Commission to give direct credits of more than $1 billion to customers—a result of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA).

June

June 1: NRG shut down the last two coal-burning units at the Waukegan Generating Station. Huge win for our community! Closing the lakefront coal plant has been CPLC’s top priority for almost 10 years.

June 9: WBEZ-Chicago and WGN-TV highlighted serious concerns about hazardous coal ash waste left behind at the newly closed Waukegan Generating Station. CPLC co-chair Dulce Ortiz, Sierra Club’s Christine Nannicelli, State Rep. Rita Mayfield, and Waukegan Mayor Ann Taylor were interviewed.

June 13: CPLC celebrated the delivery of the first of six battery-electric Pace buses slated for Waukegan. The transit agency decided to make the North Division in Waukegan its first Zero Emission Facility in response to a strong campaign led by CPLC Steering Committee member Leah Hartung.

June 27: Citing newly identified flood risks at the Waukegan power plant, CPLC co-chair Dulce Ortiz demanded NRG be held accountable for cleaning up toxic coal ash at the site as soon as possible. Joining the call for action were Waukegan Mayor Ann Taylor, State Rep. Rita Mayfield, State Sen. Adriane Johnson, and Congressman Brad Schneider.

July

July 28: CPLC offered a fond farewell to Summer 2022 interns: Waukegan native Michelle Aguilar, a government and politics major at Scripps College in Claremont, California; and Maddie Young, an environmental studies major at American University in Washington, D.C.

August

August 16: President Joe Biden signed a sweeping $750 billion health care, tax, and climate bill into law. Thanks to the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), Illinois is in a strong position to use the historic climate funding included in the Inflation Reduction Act.

August 20: CPLC co-chair Eddie Flores signed copies of Eddie’s Environmental Justice Journey during a downtown Waukegan event. The bilingual coloring book was a collaborative effort by Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, CPLC, and local artist Diana Nava.

August 25: Earthjustice—on behalf of CPLC and other groups—sued the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for exempting at least half a billion tons of coal ash in nearly 300 landfills in 38 states from standards designed to protect people from cancer-causing chemicals.

September

September 15: One year after the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) was signed, the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition saluted volunteers across Illinois—including CPLC supporters—who fought like the planet depended on it (it does) for a #FossilFreeIL.

September 2628: CPLC Steering Committee member Celeste Flores urged the US EPA to require chemical facilities to prepare for climate change by implementing safer chemicals and processes. Our message during the virtual hearing: Voluntary measures aren’t enough to prevent chemical disasters.

November

November 4: A project to monitor ethylene oxide (EtO) in Lake County will receive a US EPA grant funded by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. “ Testing is a good start,” said CPLC Steering Committee member Celeste Flores in a Lake County News-Sun article.

December

December 14: Earthjustice—on behalf of CPLC and other groups—sued the US EPA for failing to take legally required action to protect the public from carcinogenic air emissions from ethylene oxide (EtO) sterilization facilities.

2023 vision 

Now that pandemic lockdowns are behind us (forever, we hope!), we are excited about the opportunity to work with you in person once again!

Priorities for 2023: 

  • Ensuring all coal ash is removed from the Waukegan Generating Station site. It should not be allowed to contaminate Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for 6 million people in four states.
  • Working to ensure workforce training programs under the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) increase access for marginalized communities and include community-driven approaches that lead to jobs, capital to complete projects, and more.
  • Supporting federal action to protect our community from emissions of ethylene oxide and other harmful chemicals.

To support CPLC’s work, please make a gift today.

Public input needed on CEJA jobs curriculum and training programs

[Photo: MariaGodfrida-Pixabay2]

Helping the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) become law was CPLC’s most important achievement in 2021.

Now the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) seeks public input on the curriculum to be used in several workforce training programs under CEJA. This process will only be successful if it engages with a diverse group of stakeholders and community members across Illinois.

Here’s how you can help:  

  • Attend a public listening session where you can tell DCEO what you think.
    • Register for Northern Illinois online listening session 1, Monday, October 24, 3–5 pm. 
    • Register for Northern Illinois online listening session 2, Thursday, October 27, 11 am–1 pm. 
  • Complete a feedback survey.
  • Send questions and comments to CEO.CEJA@illinois.gov.

It is critical that we speak out! We want to ensure the curriculum standards that come out of these meetings amplify access to the training. If we do not participate in these meetings, the hub training may not meet our equity expectations, and could easily be defined and awarded to traditional training providers that have not historically met the needs of marginalized communities, students, and workers. 

Talking points

The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition supports:

  • Standards and curriculum components that increase access for marginalized communities.
  • Approaches that are based in the community and are delivered, supported by, and facilitated by community-led instructors, facilitators, and experts. The students should have instructors that reflect the diversity of state.
  • Instructional techniques that are mindful of traditional barriers that negatively impact performance of marginalized students (in other words, we want programs that address barriers).
  • Approaches that are community-driven and supported by community leaders.
  • Training that is delivered by organizations with proven experience training and placing marginalized workers.
  • Approaches that lead to jobs, access to mentors and capital to complete projects, and access to the hundreds of millions of dollars in solar and energy efficiency incentives for marginalized workers.
  • Approaches that ensure the diversity and access goals associated with training, and job creation are tracked, monitored, and publicly reported.

CPLC: 2021 highlights

  • Clipping of Chicago Tribune front page
  • Volunteers in Zoom room
  • Volunteers with rainbow "Love Wins" sign
  • Youths with signs at Illinois statehouse
  • Volunteers with trash bags at park
  • Youths at desk in CPLC office
  • Governor Pritzker at Chicago lakefront
  • Dulce Ortiz of Clean Power Lake County
  • CPLC leaders at Chicago lakefront
  • Man with award at Brushwood Center
  • Dulce Ortiz on beach by coal plant

As we reflect on the events of 2021, we feel grateful for—and empowered by—our community and our shared vision to make our world a better place. Clean Power Lake County (CPLC) is proud to highlight some of our recent accomplishments.

February

  • February 7: CPLC co-chair Dulce Ortiz joined the Illinois Environmental Justice Commission as a voting member. The commission advises the Governor and state entities on environmental justice and related community issues.
  • February 8: Four members of CPLC’s steering committee joined a one-day hunger strike to protest the move of General Iron Industries’ metal shredding facility from Chicago’s affluent, predominantly white Lincoln Park neighborhood to Chicago’s predominantly Latino Southeast Side.

April

  • April 15: The Illinois Pollution Control Board adopted rules for closing more than 70 coal ash ponds across the state—including two on Waukegan’s lakefront. CPLC members worked hard to make this happen!
  • April 18: CPLC demanded that President Joe Biden’s administration address the Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to investigate ethylene oxide (EtO) polluters in Lake County—or to warn residents about the carcinogen.

May

  • May 17: “Transparency is key,” said CPLC co-chair Celeste Flores in a Chicago Tribune front-page story about Medline’s failure to report toxic ethylene oxide emissions to the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • May 24: CPLC organized one of several phone banking events supporting the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA).

June

  • June 2: CPLC participated in the Waukegan Pride Drive for the second consecutive year to help celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month. 
  • June 14: CPLC and allies told the Chicago Tribune that toxic waste left behind by coal-fired power plants could endanger drinking water for years to come.
  • June 15: CPLC volunteers journeyed to Springfield to advocate for passage of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s comprehensive, equitable climate bill.
  • June 17: NRG announced plans to close the coal-fired power plant in Waukegan. “Hundreds of volunteers, thousands of hours, helped make this day a reality,” said CPLC co-chair Dulce Ortiz. 

July

August 

  • August 2: Big win! After meeting with CPLC, the Environmental Protection Agency decided to revise rules for how coal-fired power plants—including the one in Waukegan—can dispose of contaminated wastewater.
  • August 7: CPLC partnered with Illinois Sen. Adrianne Johnson to organize a clean-up at North Chicago’s Foss Park. 

September 

October

  • October 2: CPLC steering committee member Eddie Flores received the Environmental Youth Leadership Award from Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods. 

December 

  • December 5: CPLC’s fight for clean air, clean water, and healthy soil in Waukegan was the subject of the front-page story in the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune. CPLC co-chair Dulce Ortiz and steering committee members Eddie Flores and Karen Long MacLeod were interviewed.
  • December 15-16: CPLC volunteers asked dozens of questions during Midwest Generation’s public meetings on proposed plans to close coal ash ponds on the Waukegan lakefront.  

2022 vision 

This year, we feel all the more energized to accomplish our mission: ensuring clean air, clean water, and healthy soil for every Lake County community member and achieving the self-determination of those disproportionately impacted by environmental pollution.

Priorities for 2022: 

  • Continue pursuing a just transition for the Waukegan coal plant. This means ensuring that coal ash is removed so it cannot contaminate Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for 6 million people in four states. It also means ensuring proper notification and public engagement if and when the company plans any demolition at the site. 
  • Monitoring efforts to implement the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act (signed into law in 2019) to hold coal plant owners accountable for clean-ups.
  • Serving in key working groups to ensure effective implementation of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (signed into law in 2021).

CPLC: New Illinois Law Will Help Build Equitable Clean Energy Future

Governor Pritzker at Chicago lakefront
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs the historic Climate and Equitable Jobs Act. [Photo courtesy of Celeste Flores]

Illinois’ Climate and Equitable Jobs Act—designed to build an equitable clean energy future for Illinoisans—is now the law of our land.

Clean Power Lake County is proud to have joined fellow members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition as well as Illinois House and Senate leaders in Chicago on Sept. 15 to see Gov. J.B. Pritzker sign the sweeping bill into law.

The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act combines appropriate pollution regulations with equity protections to help establish responsible transition timelines for fossil fuel plants like the one on Waukegan’s lakefront. These equity protections are essential to prevent abrupt retirement announcements that leave no room for planning and force communities to fend for themselves against profit-focused corporate giants. 

Clean Power Lake County has been fighting for nearly a decade to end toxic pollution from the coal-fired power plant in our front yard.

Waukegan deserves a just transition from coal to a clean energy future. And now we will get it: The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act invests $41 million per year in former fossil fuel communities and workers. It will replace lost property taxes, help workers with training, and support equity-focused workforce programs to help communities like ours become part of our clean energy future.

Dulce Ortiz of Clean Power Lake County

For far too long, Black and Brown lives have been sacrificed for the sake of corporate profits. The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act finally stops putting the profits of inefficient and dirty fossil fuels over the health and safety of our Black and Brown sisters and brothers. 

This act addresses the historic inequities of pollution, creates jobs in the communities that need them the most, and invests in projects critical to our communities. Most importantly, we will leave a better community, a better world for our many generations to come, a healthy and clean energy future beyond coal.

—Dulce Ortiz, co-chair of Clean Power Lake County