Moving Waukegan Forward With Renewable Energy

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Members of the Clean Power Lake County Campaign were pleased to meet with several elected officials from Waukegan and Lake County, staff members representing state elected officials, and faith leaders on March 31, 2016, to discuss public opinion about renewable energy and clean energy opportunities for Waukegan and all of Lake County.

The lunchtime event, “Moving Waukegan Forward,” featured two speakers: Andrew Baumann, vice president of Global Strategy Group, and Sarah Wochos, co-legislative director for the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Baumann reviewed details of a poll conducted by his company that showed 70 percent of Waukegan voters support a transition plan that sets a retirement date for NRG Energy’s coal-fired power plant on the Waukegan lakefront and expands solar power. (Full poll results are available at sierraclub.org/waukegan.)

Wochos outlined ideas for seizing renewable energy opportunities, which can help bring good-paying jobs to Lake County.

The Lake County News-Sun published a good recap of the March 31 event.

The event was co-sponsored by several Clean Power Lake County coalition partners: Christ Episcopal Church of Waukegan, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Faith in Place, the League of Women Voters, Most Blessed Trinity Parish of Waukegan, NAACP of Lake County, Respiratory Health Association, and Sierra Club.

All slide show images by Dylan Blake for Clean Power Lake County. 

 

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‘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

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.

Leading the Charge for Clean Jobs in Illinois

The Clean Power Lake County delegation is ready to lead the charge for passage of the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill . [Photo by Alex Morgan/Sierra Club.]
Members of the Clean Power Lake County Campaign visit the State Capitol in Springfield to help lead the charge for passage of the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill. [Photo by Alex Morgan/Sierra Club.]

While most of you have been dodging April showers, filing your tax returns and mustering hope that this year will be the year for the Chicago Cubs, Clean Power Lake County’s “climate avengers” have been helping lead the charge to pass the bipartisan Illinois Clean Jobs Bill in Springfield.

The Illinois Clean Jobs Bill (HB 2607/SB1485) will cut energy use through efficiency, increase use of renewable wind and solar energy, and create an estimated 32,000 jobs annually. The bill is supported by more than 41 co-sponsors in the Illinois House, 21 co-sponsors in the Illinois Senate and a coalition of more than 70 businesses and 30 organizations.

On April 22—Earth Day—nearly two dozen Clean Power Lake County coalition representatives rallied alongside more than 500 other Illinoisans at the state capitol to support the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill, clean energy and climate action. (Check our our Facebook photo album and watch WAND-TV video coverage of the rally.)

Illinois State Representative Rita Mayfield speaks with Waukegan resident Maryfran Troha at Clean Power Lake County's Clean Jobs Forum in Waukegan on April 8. [Photo by Karen Long MacLeod/Clean Power Lake County Campaign.]
Illinois State Representative Rita Mayfield speaks with Waukegan resident Maryfran Troha at Clean Power Lake County’s Clean Jobs Forum in Waukegan on April 8. [Photo by Karen Long MacLeod/Clean Power Lake County Campaign.]
A constituent speaks with Illinois State Senator Julie Morrison at Clean Power Lake County's Clean Jobs Forum in Waukegan, held April 8. [Photo by Karen Long MacLeod/Clean Power Lake County Campaign.]
A constituent speaks with Illinois State Senator Julie Morrison at Clean Power Lake County’s Clean Jobs Forum in Waukegan, held April 8. [Photo by Karen Long MacLeod/Clean Power Lake County Campaign.]
 

On April 8, two of the bill’s co-sponsors, State Representative Rita Mayfield and State Senator Julie Morrison, received rounds of applause during a Waukegan forum when they said the measure would lower consumers’ utility bills, bring clean energy investment to more communities, strengthen local tax bases, create thousands of family-sustaining jobs and reduce dangerous pollution from coal-fired power plants. The forum was sponsored by the Clean Power Lake County Campaign.

The Clean Jobs Bill improves upon the 2007 Illinois Renewable Portfolio Standard in several ways:

  • Increases the share of power coming from renewable sources to 35% by 2030
  • Raises the state’s energy efficiency standard with 20% energy reductions by 2025
  • Proposes a market-based strategy to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, which is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan

The bill also contains several provisions to help disadvantaged communities, such as bringing more solar installations and workforce development to low-income communities, and building solar arrays on contaminated lands often located in disadvantaged communities.

Equally important for residents of a cash-strapped state, “this legislation doesn’t cost the taxpayer anything,” Mayfield said during the Waukegan forum.

Ready to help? Please sign the official Illinois Sierra Club petition to ask your representatives to support the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill.

Clean Jobs Forum Focuses on Economic Opportunity for Lake County

Illinois' existing Renewable Portfolio Standard has already created more than 20,000 jobs. Standards in the new Illinois Clean Jobs Bill could create 32,000 additional jobs.
Illinois’ existing Renewable Portfolio Standard has already created more than 20,000 jobs. Standards in the new Illinois Clean Jobs Bill could create 32,000 additional jobs.

Policy leaders participating in the Clean Jobs Forum 2015, to be held April 8, 2015, in downtown Waukegan, will discuss the main components of the recently introduced Illinois Clean Jobs Bill, and how the bill can bolster clean energy development and jobs in communities like Waukegan and North Chicago.

Featured speakers include State Sen. Julie Morrison (29th District); State Rep. Rita Mayfield (60th District); Jack Darin, director of the Illinois Sierra Club; and Sarah Moskowitz, outreach director for the Citizens Utility Board.

The bipartisan Clean Jobs Bill (HB 2607/SB1485) would strengthen energy efficiency policies, ramp up Illinois’ wind and solar industries, and pursue market-based strategies to meet new federal carbon limits. Once fully implemented, the standards would create an estimated 32,000 jobs annually across Illinois. They also would protect Illinois residents from the impacts of climate change while maintaining a reliable and affordable electricity system.

Event Summary
What: Clean Jobs Forum 2015
Where: Most Blessed Trinity Academy, 510 Grand Ave., Waukegan, IL 60085
When: Wednesday, April 8, 2015, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
RSVP and questions: Alex Morgan, alex.morgan@sierraclub.org

The Clean Jobs Forum is organized by the Clean Power Lake County Campaign, a grassroots coalition of community, faith and environmental groups dedicated to building a healthy, clean energy future for Lake County.

Lake County Lawmakers Lead Fight Against Climate Change

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[Photo by Worradmu/Freedigitalphotos.net]

Six state assembly members from Lake County were among 53 members of the Illinois House and Senate who last month urged the EPA to set strong limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, and who pledged support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

“The EPA limits other dangerous pollutants such as mercury, arsenic, smog and soot pollution from power plants; it is time to do the same for carbon pollution,” said the December 1, 2014, letter to Gina McCarthy, head of the EPA.

The six Lake County officials who signed the letter are:

  • State Senator Julie Morrison, Senate District 29
  • State Senator Melinda Bush, Senate District 31
  • State Representative Elaine Nekritz, Assistant Majority Leader, House District 57
  • State Representative Scott Drury, House District 58
  • State Representative Carol Sente, House District 59
  • State Representative Sam Yingling, House District 62

Tony Award-winning director and Illinois native Anna Shapiro recently narrated a video thanking Illinois lawmakers for leading the fight against climate change—and helping make Illinois a leader in clean energy policy.

Here are some ways in which Illinois is well-positioned to meet the challenge of reducing carbon pollution:

  • Illinois led the nation in the number of communities using renewable energy between 2008 and 2012.
  • Energy efficiency investments have saved Illinois consumers roughly $1 billion since 2008.
  • More than 96,000 Illinoisans currently are employed across the state in clean energy jobs, according to a recent survey by the Clean Energy Trust. That number is roughly equal to the size of the state’s real estate and accounting industries—and it is expected to grow 9 percent this year.

The EPA is slated to finalize new carbon pollution standards by June 2015.