Bobcats – Targeted for Hunting in the Illinois Legislature

Bobcat by Valerie aka ucumari Flickr attreq noncomm noder resized

Photo by Valerie via Creative Commons

In the final days of the fall veto session HB 4226 was rushed through and narrowly passed in the Senate by one vote. HB 4226, which allows bobcat hunting in Illinois is on its way to Governor Quinn’s desk.

You can help! Please ask the governor to Veto HB 4226.

Bobcats are important apex predators that live on a diet of rodents and small mammals and contribute to an overall healthy ecosystem.  According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), bobcats historically occurred throughout Illinois, but habitat changes and unregulated hunting caused a dramatic population decline by the 1800s. Bobcats were placed on Illinois’ first official list of threatened species in 1977.

After a study conducted by Southern Illinois University in the 1990s found that bobcat populations were becoming fairly common in southern Illinois and expanding northward, bobcats were removed from the state threatened species list in 1999.

HB 4226, which had much opposition, was rushed through the Illinois Senate with the waiving of several rues. Full testimony by ecologists and other opponents was never considered.

The bill that passed has significant issues. First, the bill does not limit the areas or set bobcat population standards for counties to restrict hunting; hunting can be allowed in any county in the state. Second, the proposed season overlaps portions of the bobcat breeding season, putting both bobcats with kittens and pregnant bobcats at risk. Finally, there is no specific emergency procedure to close the season if the species becomes threatened again.

Your calls and emails were very effective in almost defeating the bill in the Senate. Please take this next step to protect our bobcats.

Ask the Governor to veto this bill.

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Chicago Calls For Action On Proposed Great Lakes Nuclear Waste Dump

This week Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced a resolution to the Chicago City Council highlighting the threat to the Great Lakes from a proposed nuclear waste disposal site near Lake Huron in Ontario, Canada. Sierra Club welcomed the proposal and urged the full City Council to consider and approve the resolution.

“The Great Lakes are not only Chicago’s source of drinking water, they are a global treasure, and no place for storing dangerous nuclear wastes,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter. “We applaud Mayor Emanuel for moving to protect Chicago’s drinking water and the Great Lakes from the threat of a nuclear waste dump.”

On Wednesday, Emanuel introduced a City Council resolution finding that the “creation of a permanent nuclear waste storage facility so close to one of the Great Lakes is a matter of vital concern to the region’s states and provinces”; and calling on the Obama administration and Congress to engage the International Joint Commission to review the proposal. Emanuel’s resolution also finds that “a leak of radioactive waste would almost certainly have a cataclysmic effect on the delicate ecological balance of the world’s largest group of interconnected freshwater bodies of water.”

“Chicagoans and visitors rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water, recreation and for creating the ecosystem that makes Chicago the City in the Garden,” said Mayor Emanuel. “I have stood with the Sierra Club throughout my career in Congress and as Mayor to ensure Lake Michigan is protected against corporate polluters. Today’s action is another strong sign that we will not allow the Great Lakes to become a nuclear waste disposal site, and we will continue efforts to keep these waters safe, sustainable and reliable for future generations.”

“As Chicagoans working to clean up the Great Lakes and protect them from harm, we are appalled that anyone would consider burying nuclear waste on the shores of Lake Huron,” said Christine Williamson, Chair of the Chicago Group of the Sierra Club. “We thank Mayor Emanuel for calling attention to this threat to the Great Lakes, and all that the City of Chicago is doing to move toward clean energy sources that create good jobs without threatening our health and communities.”

The full resolution is available here.

Why We Support Raising Illinois’ Minimum Wage

Sierra Club joined allies in the Raise Illinois coalition Monday to call on the Illinois General Assembly to take action this fall to raise Illinois’ minimum wage to at least $10 per hour. On Election Day two weeks ago, 67% of Illinois voters voicing supported an advisory referendum calling for the increase.

What does raising the minimum wage, and addressing income inequality, have to do with protecting the environment? We know that a healthy environment depends on a healthy economy, and an engaged public, with citizens empowered to protect their health and families.

Pollution thrives on poverty. Families living on minimum wage salaries are more likely to live with more air and water pollution, and hazardous wastes, than those earning a living wage. Low-income households are more likely to have a child or family member who suffers from asthma or other illness made worse by pollution. People struggling to survive are less empowered to seek justice when their communities are threatened. That’s how poverty attracts pollution, and environmental injustice occurs.

Everyone wants clean air, clean water, safe open spaces, and a better future for their families. However, you can’t have a voice in the fight for our future if low wages force you to focus on putting food on the table. Illinois families deserve better, and the voters have spoken, loud and clear. Sierra Club is proud to stand with our faith, labor, community, and social justice allies and call on the Illinois General Assembly to give working families a raise, and a path to a better future.

2014 Election Overview

Our election teams rocked the campaign trail in 2014. Regardless of the disappointing outcomes of some of our campaigns, we were blown away by how many people showed their concern for the well-being of Illinois by volunteering for our endorsed environmental champions’ campaigns. See the image below for the full scoop on the work of Sierra Club members and volunteers:

Thank you everyone who phoned, knocked, and voted this election!

2014 election overview

You can also see “Election Results 2014”  to view a PDF of our endorsed candidates’ wins and losses.

Batavia City Government Demands Accountability from Nation’s Largest Coal Company

On November 3, Batavia City Council unanimously approved a resolution calling on the Illinois Attorney General to investigate Peabody Energy’s sales process of the Prairie State coal plant. City Council made this request in response to citizens’ concerns about the environmental and financial risks associated with Batavia’s long-term power purchasing agreement with the coal plant.
The Prairie State coal plant, located in Marissa, Illinois, is the largest point source of carbon pollution built in the last 25 years in the U.S. Peabody Energy, who built the plant starting in 2007, failed to entice private investors, who questioned the feasibility of profitably burning Illinois coal. Instead, Peabody Energy sold more than 200+ municipalities take-or-pay contracts to purchase the electricity for the next 30+ years. This transfered all the financial liability from Peabody Energy (who ultimately profited from this sale), to small municipalities.
In the past year, electricity prices from the coal plant have far exceeded the projected costs that Peabody marketed to municipalities. Citizens across the Midwest impacted by these costs are demanding accountability.

In Batavia, Illinois, a coalition led by the Sierra Club worked to put grassroots pressure on Batavia City Council. Citizens collected more than 1,000 citizen petitions and more than 40 business petitions in support of asking for an investigation.

Sierra Club applauds Batavia City Council, the Mayor, and City Staff for taking this important step forward, and thanks all of our coalition partners and volunteers for their leadership and commitment!

Closed Door JCAR OKs Illinois Fracking Rule

On Thursday, November 6th the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) approved rules to implement the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act.   Although JCAR’s action was final, the public could not see the final version of the rules considered, and in fact we stillcannot see them until they are filed with the Secretary of State sometime before November 15th.

This lack of transparency is particularly disconcerting in light of the fracking industry’s announced efforts to weaken the rules, and media reports indicating that industry was lobbying JCAR members privy to the draft rules at the time of the JCAR vote.  Thousands of members of the public expressed their opposition to fracking to JCAR, including Sierra Club members, who urged the Committee to reject the industry attacks, and further strengthen the rules.

The JCAR process is not new – virtually every significant change in rules implementing state laws must be presented to the bipartisan panel, ostensibly to ensure that agency rules are consistent with the law.   However, much of its work is invisible to the public, and can result in major changes in public policy.   In the case of a practice as controversial as fracking, this creates a real risk of lobbyists undermining proposed agency rules behind closed doors.

When the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) came out with the initial draft rules a year ago, Sierra Club members and thousands of other citizens and groups sent back with a very clear message – the rules are sorely lacking and must be revised.  After a long and arduous six-month process, IDNR responded to the public comment with revised rules that included some major changes requested by the public.

Fracking poses grave risks to drinking water, air quality, human health, and our climate, and no rules or regulations can make it safe.   Considering the dangers, the safest and best approach would clearly be a statewide moratorium, to allow time to consider important research underway and learn from the experiences of other states.   However, it has been legal for under Illinois’ decades-old oil and gas laws, and the General Assembly has failed to pass legislation backed by Sierra Club and dozens of organizations to impose a moratorium.

With Governor-elect Bruce Rauner making his strong support for fracking in Illinois crystal clear, the public deserved the strongest possible protections against these dangers, and a transparent rulemaking process that values public comment and input. While concerned citizens can only wait and see what final rules JCAR approved, the lack of transparency in making this critical decision does not inspire confidence.

Quinn/Rauner Debate Climate Change

During the October 8th Downstate Gubernatorial Debate in Peoria, candidates for Governor were asked about their position on climate change and whether they supported President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

The question came from Jamey Dunn at Illinois Issues magazine:

Q: States would play a large role in implementing the proposed federal role to cut carbon emissions. Do you believe that climate change is happening and is man-made and what is your take on the Obama administration’s plan to cut carbon given that the state derives most of it’s electricity from coal?

Bruce Rauner: “I believe we need a broad based portfolio of energy options in Illinois and in America. I do not believe that betting too much on any one sector is prudent- we need a broad base and we need energy independence for America and I’d like to see that also for Illinois. I believe we can have renewable energy resources here, we can have and should have further development of our wind farms, of our solar energy- renewable resources. But I also believe we can be prudent in our energy development from more traditional resources. We have incredible energy opportunity in southern Illinois with coal, with oil and gas, with hydraulic fracturing. It can be a massive job creator and tax revenue generator if we have a broad based portfolio of energy options and I would push every capability in that regard.”

Governor Quinn: “I think we have to reduce emissions and I do think we need to take on climate change. The winter we just had- terrible tornadoes this November here nearby and in Washington and other place in Illinois. I think the alarm signals told all of us that severe weather is something we all need to pay attention to and reducing emissions is part of the job for all of us. And since I’ve been governor, our state has erected many many wind turbines across Illinois. I believe in wind energy and solar energy. I’ve been in the roof of the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago where they have solar collectors at real cost. We also have to believe in energy efficiency and we’ve invested in that in Illinois. Our state is the only state not on a cost that is in the top 10 in energy efficiency states in the country and we’ve been able to do that in my time as governor. We’ve invested in energy efficiency- it’s one of the best ways to reduce emissions, help grow jobs. These are clean energy jobs that create good paying jobs for people by reducing the need for energy whenever possible and I think the state of Illinois can be a leader in this area. We have good workers who are well trained”

You can view the entire debate hereentire debate here The question on climate change is the second one in the debate.