CPLC co-chair shares his environmental justice journey in inspiring coloring book

Eddie Flores poses with environmental coloring book.
CPLC co-chair Eddie Flores is excited to share his environmental justice journey in a new coloring book.

Until he started high school, Eddie Flores had no idea that dangers hid in plain sight in Waukegan—and especially along its lakefront.

As a high schooler, he got involved with environmental groups. And that’s when he found out his hometown had five Superfund sites and a coal-burning power plant. 

“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,” Eddie said in his Clean Power Lake County bio. “I hope to connect people—especially youth—to this fight since we’re the ones that are going to be inheriting this planet.”

He has already begun connecting people to the fight for climate justice. This summer, he is sharing his story in Eddie’s Environmental Justice Journey, an environmental justice (EJ) coloring book.

The bilingual EJ coloring book is a collaborative effort by Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, Clean Power Lake County (CPLC), and local artist Diana Nava.

The coloring book helps Lake County children understand how pollutants from lakefront industries affect them. It also shows how people can work together to bring about a better future for their community.

Complimentary coloring books will be available during a Meet and Greet event on Saturday, August 20. The free event runs from 6:30­ to 8:30 pm at Three Brothers Theatre in downtown Waukegan. Reserve your free ticket here.


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 Stands With Chicago’s SE Side in Hunger Strike Against General Iron Move

Today, four members of Clean Power Lake County’s Steering Committee joined a growing hunger strike to protest the move of General Iron Industries’ metal shredding facility from Chicago’s affluent, predominantly white Lincoln Park neighborhood to the predominantly Latino Southeast Side (East 116th Street along the Calumet River).

Clean Power Lake County co-chair Celeste Flores explains why she, Lupe Bueno, Eddie Flores, and Leah Hartung participated in today’s one-day solidarity hunger strike:

[As residents of] Waukegan, Illinois, we know all too well how environmental justice communities bear the burden of the health and economic impacts from corporate polluters. We stand in solidarity with community members on the Southeast Side of Chicago, who are on the fifth day of their hunger strike.

Fasting is used as a method of protesting injustice. In this case, the injustice is environmental racism—something environmental justice communities experience on a day-to-day basis. Mayor Lightfoot has had plenty of opportunities to stand with the people and not with corporate polluters. Today I am calling on Senators Durbin and Duckworth to intervene before it is too late for the community members they represent. 

Just [as they did with] the community members in Little Village—who in April 2020 experienced the demolition of the Crawford smokestack in the middle of a global pandemic that affects the respiratory system—Mayor Lightfoot and her team have shown over and over again they do not have the best interests of community members in mind when approving permits that favor corporations over people. 

Senator Durbin and Senator Duckworth, it is not enough for you to come out with a statement after the permit is issued. This community deserves to hear you denounce the approval of the General Iron operations permit for the Southeast Side of Chicago, and they deserve it today. We look forward to you choosing to stand with people who live and work in the Southeast Side and holding Mayor Lightfoot accountable for her actions in this beautiful community.

A local teacher and two activists initiated the hunger strike to draw attention to their plight. They have vowed not to eat solid foods until the City of Chicago denies General Iron’s application for an operating permit. (For updates, go to #StopGeneralIron Hunger Strike on Twitter.)

According to a news report in the Chicago Sun-Times, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is investigating residents’ complaints that operation of the car-shredding facility would violate their civil rights.

As far as Clean Power Lake County is concerned, adding yet another polluter to a community already burdened by other industrial companies in the area is unconscionable. 

If you agree, please call on Senators Tammy Duckworth and Richard Durbin to intervene and condemn General Iron’s proposed move.  

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 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.