No Coal: Clean Energy Should Be the Goal

A letter by Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs for the Respiratory Health Association—a lead partner in the Clean Power Lake County campaign—appeared in the December 7, 2017, edition of the Lake County News-Sun.

Compared to NRG’s coal plant on Waukegan’s lakefront, WE Energies’ Pleasant Prairie coal plant two miles north of the state line is nearly twice as big, half the age and 10 times less polluting. Yet WE Energies is shutting down that power plant this spring and will instead install 1.3 square miles of solar panels in the area by 2020.

That cleaner, newer, less health-damaging coal plant is closing and Wisconsin will see thousands of new solar jobs. Yet Waukegan keeps NRG’s daily deadly pollution and tiny solar projects built for show on a few local schools.

The utility industry has changed dramatically and Waukegan is behind the curve. In 2012, 19 coal power plants ringed Lake Michigan. None had pollution scrubbers. By late 2018, 10 of those will have ceased burning coal. Four more will have installed modern pollution controls that slash lung-damaging emissions 80 percent or more. Of the last five, NRG’s plant is by far the largest polluter operating on 1,600 miles of lakeshore across four states.

Many Lake County leaders, from County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor and County Board member Mary Ross Cunningham to Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering and Zion Mayor Al Hill, have signed the Lake County Climate Action Pledge, aiming to move Lake County beyond coal, adopt ambitious 100 percent clean energy goals, and build climate-resilient infrastructure. In order to protect the health and livelihoods of their constituents, all public officials in Lake County need to sign that pledge.

Source: Lake County New-Sun

The Lake County Climate Action Pledge is an initiative launched by Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor in partnership with the Sierra Club. For details about the central pillars of the pledge, see our September 17, 2017, Launching the Lake County Climate Pledge post.

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President Obama Releases Landmark Clean Power Plan

In a video released on August 2, 2015, President Obama called the final version of America's Clean Power Plan "the biggest, most important step we've ever taken to combat climate change."
In a video released on August 2, 2015, President Obama called the final version of America’s Clean Power Plan “the biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.”

Clean Power Lake County launched in 2013 with the goal of getting Waukegan to transition from dirty coal to clean energy. Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Obama Administration bring us closer to that goal with the release of the final version of the landmark Clean Power Plan.

“Power plants are the single biggest source of the harmful carbon pollution that contributes to climate change,” President Obama said in a video released on Saturday, August 2. “But until now,  there have been no federal limits to the amount of that pollution those plants can dump into the air.”

Carbon pollution is the main contributor to climate disruption.

Carbon pollution also poses significant risks close to home. Because many power plants are located in disadvantaged communities, dangerous carbon pollution has a disproportionately negative effect on low-income people and people of color, including higher rates of heart attacks, asthma, and premature death.

Here’s some context: Last year, the Respiratory Health Association found that one in three children here in Waukegan had been diagnosed with asthma or showed symptoms of asthma.

Until today, there were no limits on the amount of carbon pollution that power plants could dump into the air to wreak havoc on our health and our climate.

By finalizing the centerpiece of his Climate Action Plan, the first regulations to reduce dangerous carbon emissions from existing power plants, President Obama is making history.

By cleaning up dirty power plants, the No. 1 source of life-threatening carbon pollution, these protections will ensure that our kids, our workforce and our communities are healthier. These protections also will create much-needed jobs as we fight climate disruption.

Clean Power Lake County will commemorate this historic moment–and talk about what it means for our community–on Monday, August 10, at 10 a.m. at the Stiner Pavilion on Waukegan’s lakefront. Please join us for this celebration!