Embracing a Vision of a More Beautiful Lakefront

Volunteers pick up trash on Waukegan's beach.
More than 120 people who live near Waukegan’s coal-fired power plant collect bags of trash at Waukegan Municipal Beach during Clean Power Lake County Campaign’s second annual beach cleanup. [Photo by Karen Long MacLeod/Clean Power Lake County Campaign]
As morning showers gave way to afternoon sunshine on August 23, approximately 120 Lake County residents headed to the beach on Waukegan’s beautiful lakefront to rally for clean air, clean water, and clean energy.

First, we swept the beach and the adjoining dunes to take care of the pollution we can control–like litter–as part of our second annual beach cleanup. Then we called for NRG Energy to act to retire its old and dirty coal-fired power plant, which stands less than a mile north of Waukegan’s swimming beach.

Clean Power Lake County volunteers hold "We Are Waukegan" canvas banner
With NRG Energy’s dirty coal-fired power plant in the background, volunteers hold a canvas banner proclaiming why Waukeganites care about clean air and clean water. [Photo by Karen Long MacLeod/Clean Power Lake County Campaign.]
The NRG plant, the largest source of air and water pollution in Lake County, was named one of the nation’s worst environmental justice offenders in a 2012 NAACP report.

“For too long, corporate polluters like NRG Energy have taken advantage of our lakefront and made our families sick,” Maryfran Troha told volunteers as they finished the August 23 cleanup.

Troha, a lifelong Waukegan resident, represents Clean Power Lake County coalition partners Christ Episcopal Church and the League of Women Voters of Lake County.

“I’m sick of it. I’m ready for a clean Waukegan for all of us because we deserve so much better,” Troha said.

Students with clean air and climate action signs
Students participating in the beach cleanup and rally make it clear that they want clean air. [Photo by Karen Long MacLeod/Clean Power Lake County Campaign.]
The most immediate thing we can do to help protect Waukegan’s lakefront is to attend the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Act hearing on September 2, 2015. The hearing will focus on the operating permit for NRG’s coal-fired power plant in Waukegan.

RSVP to stand with Clean Power Lake County and Sierra Club to fight for clean air in Waukegan and Lake County!

Event Summary

What: Illinois EPA Hearing on Waukegan Coal Plant
Where: Illinois Beach State Park Resort, 1 Lakefront Drive, Zion, IL 60099 [map]
When: Wednesday, September 2, 2015, 7 p.m. .
RSVP and questions: Alex Morgan

Back to the Beach: Taking Care of Waukegan’s Lakefront

A year ago, the Clean Power Lake County Campaign gathered more than 120 people from all walks of life to clean up Waukegan’s Municipal Beach and to demand new clean-energy policies for their hometowns. Students, parents and senior citizens had one thing in common: outrage toward NRG Energy, whose coal-fired power plants are some of the worst carbon polluters in Illinois.

NRG’s coal plants have faced numerous lawsuits for violations of the Clean Air Act, violations related to high levels of dangerous pollutants in groundwater near coal ash dumps adjacent to the coal plants, and repeated sulfur dioxide violations.

That’s why concerned citizens were willing to draw a line across the sand as part of Clean Power Lake County’s “Hands Across the Sand” event:

Clearly, standing together makes us stronger.

“I’m still convinced there’s a lot of power in people,” said Tracy Fox of Peoria Families Against Toxic Waste in Peoria, Illinois, stated. “We in central Illinois stand in solidarity with Lake County, and hope we can do great things together.”

This sentiment was echoed by Maria Contreras, a Waukegan High School student: “I know that I can make a difference.”

Now we have another opportunity to stand together. The Clean Power Lake County Campaign will host its second annual Waukegan beach cleanup on August 23. Together, we will celebrate our beautiful lakefront and discuss how we can protect it in the long run.

Event Summary
WhatClean Power Lake County Beach Cleanup/Limpieza de Nuestra Playa
Where: Waukegan Municipal Beach, 201 Sea Horse Drive, Waukegan, IL 60085
When: Sunday, August 23, 2015, 1 p.m.
RSVP and questions: Alex Morgan

CPLC Sends Heartfelt ‘No Coal’ Message to NRG

No coal heart_crop2_docsize
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.

Standing Strong for Waukegan’s Lakefront

Clean Power Waukegan hands across the sand_sq_09-28-14_docsize
More than 120 people stand together on Waukegan’s Municipal Beach—in view of the coal-fired NRG plant—to demand healthier a clean-energy economy. [Photo by Karen Long MacLeod/courtesy of Clean Power Lake County Campaign]
How does it feel to cross through the dunes that line the Waukegan lakefront, plant your feet in the warm sand, gaze out across the clear blue water of Lake Michigan on a picture-perfect day, and stand hand in hand with friends old and new in a line as long as two football fields end to end?

“Inclusive.” “Far-reaching.” “Inspiring.”

You know you are standing up for something that’s worth protecting. You know you are in good company.

That’s how we felt after Hands Across the Sand: Solidarity for Clean Water & Clean Power, a beach sweep and clean-energy rally hosted by the Clean Power Lake County Campaign on Sunday, September 28, at Waukegan’s Municipal Beach.

And we felt that way whether we hailed from the lakefront communities of Waukegan, North Chicago, Zion or Winthrop Harbor, from other Lake County communities, or even from Joliet and Peoria.

Dulce “Candy” Ortiz and Antonio Lopez.
Antonio Lopez (second from right), executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization in Chicago, presents a bandana from the People’s Climate Justice Summit as a souvenir to Dulce “Candy” Ortiz (second from left) of Waukegan in recognition of their common goals of environmental, economic and social justice. Lopez marched in the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21 and attended the People’s Climate Justice Summit September 22-23. Also shown: Sister Kathleen Long (left) of Most Blessed Trinity Parish of Waukegan, and David Villalobos (right) of Waukegan. [Photo by Karen Long MacLeod/ courtesy of Clean Power Lake County Campaign]
Beach sweep during Hands Across the Sand.
Volunteers picked up enough trash to fill dozens of garbage bags during a sweep of Waukegan’s Municipal Beach. [Photo by Karen Long MacLeod/courtesy of Clean Power Lake County Campaign]
Why we felt so good after Hands Across the Sand:

  • We picked up enough litter to fill dozens of garbage bags, which helped enhance Waukegan’s lakefront for the enjoyment of its many visitors.
  • We introduced several people who’d never visited Waukegan’s beach to a unique, irreplaceable natural resource.
  • We learned how healthier clean-energy economies ensure environmental, economic and social justice.

For more details, check out our 9/29/14 press release or the 9/29/14 story in the Lake County News-Sun.

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


Clean Power Lake County Gets the Word Out at Monarch Festival

Clean Power Lake County volunteers talked with hundreds of Waukegan residents of all ages on September 7 during the fifth annual Monarch Festival in downtown Waukegan.

Designed to raise awareness about the environment and healthy living, the family-friendly festival was an appropriate venue for the Clean Power campaign’s positive messages — moving beyond coal, and bringing clean energy to the community.

CPLC at Monarch Festival 2014
Clean Power Lake County volunteers promote clean energy during the Waukegan Public Library’s Monarch Festival. [Photo by Clean Power Lake County Campaign.]

Several festival-goers posed for photo petitions addressed to David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy, the owner of the coal-burning power plant on Waukegan’s lakefront. Petitions — in English and Spanish — urged Crane to move beyond fossil fuels and to ensure a healthy lakefront.

CPLC at Monarch Festival 2014 4
A local family addresses photo petitions in English and Spanish to David Crane of NRG Energy. [Photo by Clean Power Lake County Campaign.]











Monarch Festival 2014 3
Representatives of Most Blessed Trinity, a partner in the Clean Power Lake County campaign, look on as a festival-goer poses for a photo petition. [Photo by Clean Power Lake County Campaign.]

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