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.

EPA inaction exposes vulnerable communities to cancer-causing ethylene oxide every day

US EPA plaque
The US Environmental Protection Agency faces a lawsuit for inaction that exposes millions to cancer-causing ethylene oxide every day. [Image: Nojustice-Canva]

Last week, Earthjustice—on behalf of Clean Power Lake County and other environmental and health advocacy groups—filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to take legally required action to protect the public from harmful carcinogenic air emissions from ethylene oxide (EtO) sterilization facilities.

The Clean Air Act directs the EPA to review its EtO standards every eight years. However, the agency has repeatedly missed this deadline—first in 2014 and again in April 2022.

Clean Power Lake County and other groups hope this lawsuit will compel EPA to finally act and protect vulnerable communities across the country.

Ethylene oxide is a colorless, typically odorless, flammable gas used to sterilize medical equipment and to help produce chemicals needed for antifreeze, plastics, detergents, and adhesives. It is one of the most toxic air pollutants EPA regulates. This toxic chemical is a known carcinogen to humans, especially when inhaled.

EPA updated ethylene oxide’s toxicity value in 2016 and admits the chemical is 60 times more toxic than previously estimated. Yet, despite knowing that ethylene oxide emitters pose an elevated cancer risk to nearby communities, EPA has not reviewed its rules for sterilizers since 2006.

“For too long, EPA has delayed updating the sterilizer rule while communities suffer unnecessary toxic exposure and unacceptable cancer risks,” said Earthjustice attorney Marvin Brown. “The Clean Air Act requires EPA to protect communities from the harmful effects of air pollution and ensure that industry emissions do not threaten public health. By failing to timely revise its sterilizer rule, EPA has left communities to fend for themselves against a deadly, cancer-causing chemical. No one should get cancer from the facilities that make sure that medical equipment is safe. We are calling on the EPA to finally remedy this injustice without further delay.”

Facilities that emit ethylene oxide are typically found in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, many already grappling with elevated toxic exposure and health risks from multiple forms of industrial pollution. Children are particularly sensitive to ethylene oxide’s harmful effects.

As each day passes, dozens of communities continue to wait on EPA to fulfill its legal obligations under the Clean Air Act.

“The EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. They are failing my community and communities across the country with their inaction to regulate harmful air emissions from ethylene oxide facilities,” said Celeste Flores, steering committee member with Clean Power Lake County. “It’s unacceptable that everyday community members have been forced to file this suit in order for the EPA to be accountable and update their standards as required by law. Our rights have been violated and the EPA must do its job.”

Earthjustice filed the December 14 challenge on behalf of Communities Against Toxics, Clean Power Lake County, Rio Grande International Study Center, Sierra Club, and Union of Concerned Scientists

CPLC members say proposed EPA risk management rule doesn’t go far enough

[Photo: Goir-Canva]

Waukegan, Gurnee, and other municipalities in Lake County, Illinois, are surrounded by dangerous chemicals, like ethylene oxide (EtO). We know it is up to us to push for further protections.

That’s why members of Clean Power Lake County spoke out last week during public Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearings on a proposed update to the Risk Management Program (RMP) rule. The update would partially restore critical chemical facility safety standards that were rolled back in 2019 by the Trump administration. It also proposes—for the first time ever—to require regulated facilities to account for the accelerating impacts of climate change.

Whitney Richardson, a member of Clean Power Lake County, shared her concerns: 

I’m a mother, wife, daughter, human rights and environment researcher, legislative professional, and community member. The nearest RMP facility from me is 3 miles away in Mundelein, Illinois, but there are many others in Lake County where I live—like Waukegan and Gurnee—and where many friends and family live within the state and nationally. 

I’m here today to urge the EPA to take responsibility on behalf of all and require that facilities do all that is in your power to prevent chemical disasters and protect all those at risk in the event of a disaster, taking into account the dire need to prepare for guaranteed climate-driven extreme weather events and power loss.

Already, I understand that about 150 serious chemical disasters occur at RMP facilities annually, leading to deaths, injuries, and other harms. There are many current climate-change scenarios panning out and future scenarios to come—both in which we know climate change poses certain risks, though the degree to which is still unknown. It is not only prudent but incredibly necessary to anticipate and protect against worst-case scenarios in the face of such uncertainty. 

EPA must require implementation of external hazard mitigation and backup power systems. We already know that one-third of RMP facilities are located in areas at risk of flooding, storm surges, and wildfires so the rule must require facilities to consider and protect against these scenarios and concurrent risks like power outages. 

The EPA should also account for cumulative health impacts of these facilities on communities overburdened with multiple polluting facilities, strengthen prevention requirements so harm to communities doesn’t predicate action, include workers in disaster prevention planning, and expand coverage of the program no later than next year (e.g., redefining “stationary source” definition, expanding list of covered substances to include ammonium nitrate and other reactive chemicals involved in crises).

Oftentimes, the focus on protecting against climate change—and hazards more generally—is cast into the future. This dangerously overlooks our responsibilities today to address already present and known issues and to take the necessary actions to prevent and reduce serious risks into the future. 

Here’s how you can help! 

It is up to us to push for further protections. You can help: Email your comments to www.regulations.gov/document/EPA-HQ-OLEM-2022-0174-0003 through October 31, 2022.

Email cplc@cleanpowerlakecounty.org for background materials (courtesy of our friends at Coming Clean Inc.) that can help you prepare your comments.

CPLC members push EPA to strengthen chemical accidents rule

[Image: Dontree_m-Canva]

Last week, members of Clean Power Lake County spoke out during public Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearings on a proposed update to the Risk Management Program (RMP) rule. The update would partially restore critical chemical facility safety standards that were rolled back in 2019 by the Trump administration. It also proposes—for the first time ever—to require regulated facilities to account for the accelerating impacts of climate change.

Waukegan, Gurnee, and other municipalities in Lake County, Illinois, are surrounded by dangerous chemicals, like ethylene oxide (EtO). We know it is up to us to push for further protections.

Celeste Flores, a member of Clean Power Lake County’s steering committee, shared her concerns: 

I am calling today on behalf of 703,462 residents of Lake County, the third most populous county in Illinois, to urge the EPA to strengthen its Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention Rule. 

While the rule is a step forward, it does not go far enough to prevent chemical disasters, keep workers safe, and advance environmental justice. I will suggest three specific ways the rules need to go further for community members.

1: As a community member, the EPA has not made it easy for me or others to access information about chemical facilities. Anyone should be able to access relevant chemical hazard information and how this information can help them protect themselves and their communities in the event of a chemical release.

The current EPA proposal to access information is too limiting; frankly, it makes me feel like y’all don’t want me to access it. Rather than provide limited access to chemical hazard information based on proximity to a facility, EPA should develop, no later than December 2023, a public, multilingual online database where any public member can access RMP facility information and risk management plans.

I am here this morning on my own time, starting work late, because I know how critical access to information is. Why should I continue to be expected to take time off, travel, and get through red tape to access this virtual information? 

2: The EPA should ensure that workers are included in disaster prevention and planning. The current rule must go further by requiring employers to have employees and their representatives at the decision-making table in developing risk management plans rather than merely requiring employers to consult with employees.

In Waukegan, Illinois, AB Specialty Silicones plant had an explosion in 2019. We lost 4 community members. Workers acted fast and alerted colleagues to get out but the loss of those 4 lives was preventable. Strengthening employees’ input can be done by this agency and that will lead to lives being saved. 

3: The EPA must require timely, multilingual community notification and real-time fenceline monitoring. We have seen the devastation one president can have on environmental justice communities. CPLC has been advocating for federal protections since 2013. We saw our wins taken away in the last administration. This agency has the opportunity to not only bring back protections but strengthen them and act with urgency to protect our lives. Lake County, Illinois, is 25% Hispanic/Latino. Waukegan, Illinois, is 60% Hispanic/Latino. It is critical for information to be multilingual.

It was not until late 2018 that I learned about the dangers of breathing ethylene oxide (EtO) on a daily basis. I have serious concerns about the lifelong impacts of breathing EtO daily. One of the community’s biggest questions when speaking about EtO is how much was being realized before late 2018. We will never know because this agency has not implemented fenceline monitoring.

My community deserves real-time fenceline monitoring to detect releases and provide the public with information about potentially toxic emissions like EtO. I know we have other chemicals being emitted into the air. Fenceline monitoring is also a critical tool for detecting unplanned releases and monitoring emissions following incidents. EPA must require RMP facilities to use real-time fenceline air monitors and make this information available to the public and first responders.

Here’s how you can help! 

It is up to us to push for further protections. You can help: Email your comments to www.regulations.gov/document/EPA-HQ-OLEM-2022-0174-0003 through October 31, 2022.

Email cplc@cleanpowerlakecounty.org for background materials (courtesy of our friends at Coming Clean Inc.) that can help you prepare your comments.

EPA faces lawsuit as inaction exposes millions to carcinogenic ethylene oxide every day

US EPA plaque
The US Environmental Protection Agency faces a lawsuit for inaction that exposes millions to cancer-causing ethylene oxide every day. [Image: Nojustice-Canva]

Today, Earthjustice—on behalf of Clean Power Lake County and other environmental and health advocacy groups—sent a 60-day Notice of Intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the agency’s inaction to regulate harmful carcinogenic air emissions from ethylene oxide (EtO) facilities as the law required.

The Clean Air Act directs the EPA to review its EtO standards every eight years. However, the agency has repeatedly missed this deadline—first in 2014 and again in April 2022.

The EPA admits the chemical is 60 times more toxic than previously estimated and that facilities that emit EtO, including commercial sterilizers and chemical manufacturers, pose an elevated cancer risk to nearby communities. Children are particularly sensitive to ethylene oxide when exposed.

Ethylene oxide is a colorless, typically odorless, flammable gas used to sterilize medical equipment and in the production of chemicals needed for antifreeze, plastics, detergents, and adhesives. It is one of the most toxic air pollutants EPA regulates. This toxic chemical is a known carcinogen to humans, especially when inhaled.

Facilities that emit ethylene oxide are typically found in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, many already grappling with elevated toxic exposure and health risks from multiple forms of industrial pollution.

“EPA has delayed for too long to update sterilizer rule while communities suffer unnecessary toxic exposure and unacceptable cancer risks,” said Earthjustice attorney Marvin Brown. “Congress passed the Clean Air Act to protect communities from the harmful effects of air pollution, and tasked EPA with ensuring that industry emissions do not threaten public health. By failing to timely revise its sterilizer rule, EPA has left communities to fend for themselves against a deadly, cancer-causing chemical. We are calling on the EPA to finally remedy this injustice without further delay.”

As each day passes, ethylene oxide threatens the health of many communities that continue to wait on EPA to fulfill its legal obligations under the Clean Air Act. Today’s letter provides notice that community and environmental groups cannot wait any longer—and will sue EPA to compel the agency to enact stronger, science-based standards that are protective of public health.

“Excuse after excuse has led to death after death and EPA refuses to act. The agency waited more than eight years after the first deadline, and now missed a second deadline to properly regulate ethylene oxide, even as it recognized that the chemical was causing cancer to people in communities across the country,” said Raul Garcia, legislative director of Healthy Communities at Earthjustice. ”Our letter intends to compel long overdue protective action from EPA, but should also serve as reminder to state and local officials that their inaction is leaving people exposed to severe risk of cancer and other illnesses in the very communities they serve. Cancer-causing chemicals must be properly regulated at every level of government immediately.”

“The EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. They are failing my community and communities across the country with their inaction to regulate harmful air emissions from ethylene oxide facilities. It’s unacceptable that everyday community members have been forced to file this suit in order for the EPA to be accountable and update their standards as required by law. Our rights have been violated and the EPA must do its job,” said Celeste Flores, steering committee member with Clean Power Lake County.

Earthjustice filed the Notice of Intent on behalf of Rio Grande International Study Center, Clean Power Lake County, California Communities Against Toxics, Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Sierra Club.

CPLC: Statement on EPA study that identifies 23 high-risk EtO facilities

Medical instruments being sterilized in an autoclave. sterilizer.
Steam sterilization, dry heat sterilization, chemical sterilization using gases like ethylene oxide, and radiation are among the most common methods used to properly sterilize a medical device. [Image: Robertprzybysz/Canva]

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released results of a study identifying 100 communities impacted by exposure to ethylene oxide (EtO) released from sterilizing facilities. The EPA named 23 high-risk ethylene oxide sterilizer facilities that have a cancer risk rate above EPA’s 100-in-a-million unacceptable risk rate. Waukegan was not among the named communities. This is great news for our community. We are grateful for this small, positive sign that our local sterilizing facility has followed through on its promise to Clean Power Lake County to install additional pollution controls.

We stand in solidarity with the named communities and urge the EPA to do more than simply engage communities about the dangers of EtO. It is essential that at-risk communities be supported through continuous fenceline monitoring for accurate emissions data. 

Moreover, we challenge the EPA to recognize that distribution and storage facilities also pose a potential risk for EtO emissions. They should be monitored as well so that all potential sources of exposure to EtO used for sterilization can be identified. 

Clean Power Lake County also recognizes that the study applies to a very specific industry. In Illinois, medical sterilization facilities are regulated by strict controls.

However, the communities of Waukegan and Gurnee are impacted by a less regulated source of EtO emissions—Vantage Specialty Chemical, which uses ethylene oxide in the manufacture of other products. This industry is currently exempt from many EPA regulations. We urge EPA to close those loopholes and undertake monitoring of the neighborhoods surrounding that facility as well. 

The EPA statement is a positive step in the fight to end EtO emissions. There are many more steps to take before all communities impacted by EtO exposure—especially those at greatest risk of negative health outcomes—can feel safe in their own homes. 

EPA must do more to hold corporate polluters responsible and require them to use the most effective emissions controls possible or develop new technologies that replace the use of EtO for sterilization. 

Read more about the EPA’s EtO risk assessments and list of high-risk communities. 

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: Statement on EPA’s Failure to Protect Lake County Residents From EtO

EPA map of cancer risk levels associated with ethylene oxide in Lake County, Illinois.
Residents of Lake County, Illinois, face elevated cancer risk levels due to ethylene oxide emissions. [Image: US EPA]

Political appointees in the Trump administration blocked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from investigating ethylene oxide (EtO) polluters and prevented staff from warning Lake County residents about the carcinogen, according to a new report issued by the inspector general for the EPA.  

Clean Power Lake County is deeply troubled to learn of yet another example of Trump’s EPA standing with polluters instead of communities. But we are not surprised. 

Although the EPA was aware of the dangers posed by EtO, it buried this information. EPA’s action put tens of thousands of disproportionately Black and brown Lake County community members in harm’s way. The EPA failed in its mission to protect human health and the natural environment by allowing corporations to continue jeopardizing the well-being of our already overburdened communities and exposing us to highly carcinogenic toxins. 

It should not be radical for us to demand a healthy living environment. 

We will hold the Biden administration to its promise to address these findings and demand continuous, independent, fenceline monitoring for EtO in every impacted community across the nation. 

We applaud the Biden administration for creating the Environmental Justice Advisory Council—and we remind council members that tailored action must follow for each EJ community. 

The EPA must provide the necessary support and proper communications to state EPAs and county health departments. This administration must hold the EPA accountable for communicating with local governments and EJ leaders; supporting state, county, and local priorities; and enforcing federal regulations. 

We look forward to continuing to work with Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin of Illinois—two of the four members of Congress who requested an investigation into EPA’s handling of ethylene oxide emissions—and all of our elected officials to hold the EPA accountable and to address the many EJ issues our community members face.

For more information: 

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.  

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.