Clean Power Lake County Campaign Is Showcased in One Earth Film Festival

Clean Power Lake County activists and campaign supporters appear in “Years of Living Dangerously: Uprising," one of five environment-themed films to be screened in Lake County as part of the One Earth Film Festival.

Several Clean Power Lake County activists appear in one of five environment-themed films to be screened in Lake County as part of the One Earth Film Festival, March 4-11.

Dulce Ortiz, Rev. Eileen Shanley-Roberts, Sister Kathleen Long, Karen Long MacLeod, Julio Guzman, Celeste Flores, and Christine Nannicelli appear along with hundreds of campaign supporters in “Years of Living Dangerously: Uprising.” The documentary will be shown at 5 p.m. on March 5 at Christ Episcopal Church in Waukegan.

In the documentary, actress America Ferrera follows Clean Power Lake County activists as, over the course of nearly a year, they collect and deliver petitions to the Waukegan City Council, journey to Springfield to advocate for clean energy policy that can provide green jobs, and appeal directly to NRG Energy to work with the community to transition its Waukegan power plant beyond coal.

Audience members will have the chance to meet local activists featured in the film, learn what Clean Power Lake County is doing to move Waukegan beyond coal, and talk with local leaders about how community members can work together to revitalize the Waukegan lakefront.

Here’s the line-up of Lake County showings:

The Lake County showings are free and open to the public. A $6 donation per film is appreciated. For more information, movie trailers and tickets, go to www.oneearthfilmfest.org/films-by-date.

The Lake County screenings are part of the Midwest’s premier environmental film festival. Local sponsors are Citizens Climate Lobby, Clean Power Lake County, College of Lake County, Faith in Place, Liberty Prairie Foundation, Prairie Crossing Charter School, Sierra Club: Woods & Wetlands Group, and Wild Ones: Lake to Prairie Chapter.

‘Chicago Tonight’ Spotlights Waukegan Coal Plant Controversy

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Three members of the Clean Power Lake County Campaign were featured prominently in a March 23, 2016, report by “Chicago Tonight,” Chicago’s premier news and public affairs magazine.

Waukegan Fourth Ward Alderman David Villalobos, Sister Kathleen Long of Most Blessed Trinity Catholic Parish (Waukegan), and Christine Nannicelli of the Sierra Club highlighted several reasons why we are pushing for a transition plan that spells out a retirement date for the coal-fired power plant in Waukegan and also emphasizes renewable clean energy sources as part of the report, “Activists Call for Closure of Waukegan Coal-Fired Power Plant.”

The “Chicago Tonight” video and transcript are available online.

Area residents were quick to sound off—via the Lake County News-Sun—about on-camera remarks by Mayor Wayne Motley of Waukegan and Julie Contreras, chair of the Lake County Latino activist group LULAC:

Glad to see folks standing up for our lakefront and wanting to see a future without pollution. It’s been one of Waukegan’s greatest challenges to attract more visitors and new economic growth. There are so many opportunities here to chart a new path for Waukegan but we’re going to need courageous leadership that isn’t tied to out-of-state corporations. It’s encouraging to see Alderman (David) Villalobos have the independence, courage, and vision to speak out.

It was great to see more media coverage on the coal plant issue here in Waukegan. I applaud the persistent efforts of organizations and local leaders to push our city toward a cleaner and healthier future for our lakefront. However, I don’t see how Mayor Motley’s responses and perspective on the coal plant align with the plans of revitalizing the lakefront that will attract more visitors, businesses, and recreational activities. Waukegan wants to brand itself as a city moving forward and we need to address the pollution from the plant on the lakefront. Thank you.

I was happy to see that “Chicago Tonight” took an interest in Waukegan this week with its story, “Activists Call for Closure of Waukegan Coal-Fired Power Plant.” While a range of positions were expressed, I think we all know that coal pollution is dangerous. Waukegan has paid a big price for all the pollution it has endured for decades from corporations who make their profits and leave their contamination behind. It is important to plan a transition from the coal plant to clean energy precisely so people’s jobs and the city’s tax base not suddenly be lost when this aging coal plant—like so many in the country—ends up closing down. Hopefully one day elected officials will deny the corporate campaign contributions and do what’s right for our community. Waukegan deserves better.

I saw a TV program about the NRG coal-fired power plant in Waukegan. If the mayor is worried about the coal plant leaving the community, and the impacts to the tax base and jobs, then the city should begin planning for it now. I keep reading about coal plants closing and coal mining companies going into bankruptcy. That plant is old and will not keep running for much longer. Mayor Wayne Motley’s statements are short-sighted. He should see the great opportunity he has in front of him to demonstrate effective leadership to chart a responsible transition plan for the plant. Everyone

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.

Waukegan Voters Support Transition Plan for NRG Coal Plant: Poll

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NRG’s Waukegan coal plant, on the Lake Michigan shore, is the largest source of air and water pollution in Lake County. [Photo by Lisa Long/Clean Power Lake County]

In December, we went to Waukegan City Hall to deliver 2,082 petitions requesting formation of a task force to plan the responsible transition of NRG Energy’s outdated coal-fired power plant on the Waukegan lakefront.

This month, we went back to Waukegan City Hall—this time, to deliver the results of an exciting new bipartisan poll that bolsters our argument that Waukegan is ready to transition to renewable energy.

An overwhelming 70 percent of Waukegan voters participating in the poll support a transition plan that sets a retirement date for the coal plant, considers clean energy alternatives, and promotes redevelopment of polluted sites along the lakefront.

Nearly eight in 10 voters in the city want this part of Illinois to start producing more electricity from solar energy, according to the poll. Conversely, most voters want this area to produce less electricity from coal.

The Global Strategy Group poll, released January 14, involved interviews with 300 registered voters in Waukegan between December 11 and December 20, 2015. It was commissioned by the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. For full poll results, click sierraclub.org/waukegan.

Add the convincing poll evidence to the recommendations of Waukegan’s own lakefront development consultants, Edgewater Resources:  These give Mayor Wayne Motley and the Waukegan City Council ample justification to bring NRG to the table to discuss a responsible transition away from coal in Waukegan.

Mayor Motley says he has contacted NRG Energy more than once about meeting with community stakeholders (see Poll: Waukegan residents want transition from coal to clean energy ).

In the meantime, Clean Power Lake County volunteers will continue working to build support for the transition task force.

CPLC Sends Heartfelt ‘No Coal’ Message to NRG

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Clean Power Lake County team members are asking NRG to stop using coal at its lakefront plant in Waukegan. [Photo by Karen Long MacLeod/courtesy of Clean Power Lake County Campaign]

Why would nine Clean Power Lake County Campaign team members tromp through the snow in subzero temperatures at Waukegan’s lakefront on Valentine’s Day, armed with two heart-shaped candy boxes and one gallon of pink lemonade? It’s not because they are gluttons for punishment (though some might argue that they are). In fact, it was because they wanted to send a heartfelt anti-coal message to David Crane, CEO of New Jersey-based NRG Energy, which owns the coal coal-fired power plant in Waukegan.

The message: No coal.

The burning of coal is one of the main reasons Northeastern Illinois fails to meet minimal federal air quality standards for ozone smog and particle pollution. This endangers not only Waukegan residents but also the more than 8 million people living in the region.

The coal-fired Waukegan plant is of particular concern because it emits more sulfur dioxide and mercury than any other factory or facility in Lake County, according to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

The risks are real: Pollution from the Waukegan coal plant resulted in 34 premature deaths, 570 asthma attacks and more than 50 heart attacks, according to “The Toll from Coal,” a 2010 Clean Air Task Force report.

The burning of coal poses additional risks. Coal ash contains toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and selenium that pollute groundwater at the lakefront site of the Waukegan plant. Numerous studies link heavy metals with increased risk of cancer, learning disabilities, neurological disorders, birth defects, asthma and other illnesses.

The annual health costs of air pollution from the Waukegan coal plant exceed $86 million, according to a 2010 National Research Council study that applied an economic model to air pollution statistics.

No wonder 26 state and local public officials from the Illinois State Legislature and the Lake County Board and more than a dozen Lake County, Illinois, physicians have asked NRG to establish a clear transition plan for the coal plant and to explore clean energy options.

Join Hands Across the Sand to Call for Clean Water and Clean Power

NRG Energy’s recent decision to continue burning coal at its plants in Waukegan, Pekin, and Romeoville, Illinois, condemns the surrounding communities to more years of deadly air and water pollution.

On Sunday, September 28, community leaders who live next to these plants will join forces at Waukegan Municipal Beach in Waukegan, Illinois, to demand a fossil fuel-free, clean energy future for their communities.

The event, hosted by the Clean Power Lake County Campaign, will kick off at 2 p.m. with a beach clean-up. Afterward, at approximately 2:45 p.m., community leaders and environmental experts will share their hopes for a cleaner, healthier future.

Scheduled speakers include Dulce “Candy” Ortiz and David Villalobos, Clean Power Lake County; Ellen Rendulich, Citizens Against Ruining the Environment (CARE); Tracy Fox, Peoria Families Against Toxic Waste; and Faith Bugel, Environmental Law & Policy Center.

We will stand together on Waukegan’s beach to send a clear message that our communities are ready for a healthy clean energy future.

Will you stand with us?

Event Summary

What: Hands Across the Sand: Solidarity for Clean Water and Clean Power

Where: Waukegan Municipal Beach, 201 Sea Horse Drive, Waukegan, IL 60085 (parking fees will be waived; park in North Lot by the beach)

When: Sunday, September 28, 2014, 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

RSVP and questions: Christine.nannicelli@sierraclub.org

 

A letter by David Villalobos, recruiting chair for the Clean Power Lake County campaign, appeared in the August 26, 2014, edition of the Lake County News-Sun.

Less Coal Pollution Is Still
Coal Pollution

A couple of weeks ago, NRG Energy announced plans for the future for its coal-burning power plant in Waukegan, my community, and it is a bleak future.

Although NRG is looking for praise for reducing coal pollution in Illinois — in part by installing legally required emission controls at the Waukegan plant and in part by upgrading or closing plants in other communities — the glaring fact remains that NRG’s decision will subject Waukegan to coal pollution and the wide-ranging health risks associated with coal pollution for years to come. Somewhat less coal pollution is still coal pollution. Only by completely eliminating the burning of coal can we end coal pollution for my community of Waukegan.

We must keep NRG’s decision in perspective: It is a step forward for Illinois, but it is the smallest step forward for Waukegan considering NRG’s financial resources and its branding as a company that “supports clean energy resources and technologies critical to our transition to a sustainable, low carbon society.”

We must continue to work with NRG to ensure a clean, healthy future for the lakefront and the city of Waukegan as a whole.

Source: Lake County New-Sun