Solar Equality in Illinois

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On April 3rd, the Illinois Commerce Commission approved the Future Energy Jobs Act’s long-term renewable resources procurement plan, which sets out how the State will meet its goals for increasing solar capacity to meet the statewide target of 25% clean energy by 2025. The plan will spark a massive growth in renewable energy development in Illinois, building enough new wind and solar energy to power nearly 1 million homes by 2021, launching a first-of-its-kind Solar for All program to benefit economically disadvantaged and environmental justice communities, opening up community solar to those who cannot install solar on their homes, and bringing new jobs and economic development to all corners of the state.

Responding to the concerns of Sierra Club Illinois, solar advocates, and other members of the Clean Jobs Coalition, the Commission changed one critical point of a proposed order from an administrative law judge to ensure that community solar, on-site, and low-income solar projects located in municipal electric utility and rural electric cooperative territories are eligible for Renewable Energy Credit incentives under FEJA. If the proposed order had been implemented unchanged, many rural and lower-income residents in these areas would have been excluded from the benefits of solar, including cleaner air, lower utility bills, and job opportunities.

The final order also eliminated proposed short-term spot procurements for RECs from existing, possibly out-of-state projects that could have depleted the renewable energy fund meant to jumpstart the development of new, homegrown solar and wind projects in Illinois. The order also made more stringent the requirements that out-of-state projects have to meet for long-term REC contracts under FEJA.

In addition, the final order made clear that higher REC incentives should be made available to community solar projects, including for low-income community solar projects, with smaller residential subscribers. This will help ensure that community solar benefits will be made more accessible to a broader range of Illinois residents, rather than large institutional subscribers like businesses or corporate customers.

Given that the very purpose and intent of FEJA is to ensure the fair, equitable, and geographically dispersed access to the benefits of clean energy across all communities in Illinois, Sierra Club Illinois appreciates that the Illinois Commerce Commission further strengthened the renewable resources procurement plan by allowing rural and economically-distressed areas to have equal access to the benefits of solar.

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Celebrate World Water Day with us!

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Today is World Water Day.

World Water Day is a global day of awareness on the importance of water. Here in Illinois, we’re fortunate to have the world’s largest source of surface freshwater in the world right in our backyard. But pollution, invasive species and clean water policy rollbacks by the Trump Administration are threatening the health and longevity of this vital water source.

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We’re also seeing groundwater sources being depleted, intense rain events that can’t be handled by our failing water infrastructure and degraded waterways that desperately need restoration and protection from additional pollution.

We’ve seen where expensive manmade solutions to these problems fall short. That’s why we’re all about this year’s theme for World Water Day, ‘Nature for Water’ – exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.

Our volunteer Chicago Water Team is celebrating this global day of awareness by accompanying a group of 7th and 8th grade science students on a tour of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s (MWRD) Terrence J. O’Brien Wastewater Treatment Plant, which uses nature-based solutions to treat Chicago’s wastewater such as UV disinfection and a revolving algal biofilm (RAB) system to remove nutrients.

We’re also participating in a ‘State of Our Water’ Symposium, organized by the Illinois Environmental Council at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The event will give the audience an overview of the most critical issues facing water in Illinois, including the progress being made implementing the state’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. Our Clean Water Program Director, Cindy Skrukrud, will speak about the importance of getting involved in local watershed efforts and how citizens can help clean up urban waterways by employing nature-based solutions on their own properties. We have volunteers across the state working together to protect and restore their local waterways. If you’d like to get involved in our efforts, check out our website and then get in touch!  

In Alton, our Piasa Palisades Group is celebrating by hosting a 5-mile litter clean-up along the Great River Road. Volunteers will kick off their clean-up at three different starting points with morning and afternoon shifts, and are bound to make a big impact on the state of the Mississippi River shoreline in their community! 

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While we love celebrating clean water on this special day and are proud to stand with others across the globe bringing awareness to the importance of water, we also want to continue the conversation — and more importantly, the ACTION — for clean water every day. We’ll continue to advocate for common sense policies and investment in infrastructure to protect our water at the local, state and federal level. We’ll stand up against dangerous attempts by the Trump Administration to rollback protections, cut budgets and eliminate programs that are needed to keep our water clean and ecosystems healthy. We hope you’ll stand with us and join us in this fight.

 

 

Lobby Day – April 26th 2018

On April 26, people from across Illinois will converge on Springfield to rally for our shared home and talk to our legislators about policies that will protect our air, water, land, and neighbors. Environmental Lobby Day happens every April in Springfield and is vital to building the political power we need to address environmental injustices today, and protect our communities for generations to come. We hope you can join!

WHAT: Environmental Lobby Day
WHERE: Illinois State Capitol Building – 401 S Second St. Springfield, IL
WHEN: Thursday, April 26, Rally @ 11 am, lobbying before + after

You can come down the night before for a reception and training, drive/carpool/take the train there the day-of, or get on bus the day of.

If you’re planning to get there yourself you can register here

If you’re planning to take a bus you can register here (buses from Chicago loop + southside, Waukegan, Schaumburg, Oak Park, and Champaign)  

  • We have a number of important issues we’ll be advocating for, such as:
    Protecting utility customers from being forced to bail-out polluting coal power plant owner Dynegy
  • Ensuring access to clean drinking water for all by making sure Illinois replaces our aging lead water lines.  Protecting your right to have a say in polluting projects happening in your community.

Environmental Lobby Day is powerful because of the residents across Illinois who show up to rally + make their voices heard with their state legislators. Please register today!

Join Sierra Club to Protect our Air

If fossil fuel interests & Governor Rauner get their way, there’ll be a lot more dangerous pollution in Illinois’ air!

Dynegy, the Texas-based company that now owns Ameren is working behind closed doors with Rauner’s administration to rewrite State air pollution rules to allow them to double the amount of dangerous pollution they can spew into our air. Join Sierra Club, our partners, and concerned community members at the Illinois Pollution Control Board meeting on March 6 to demand that our state protect people and the environment over corporate profits.

WHAT: Pollution Control Board Hearing
WHERE: 157 N Main St, Edwardsville, IL 62025
WHEN: Tuesday, March 6, 10 am-9 pm

To RSVP, click here.

For questions? Contact Ryan Hidden: ryan.hidden@sierraclub.org.

Sierra Club responds to Trump’s second attempt to cut Great Lakes funding

Yesterday, the Trump Administration released its 2019 budget proposal, which includes an approximate 90% cut to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a fund that EPA distributes to groups doing work on the ground to protect and restore the Great Lakes and its ecosystems.

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Senator Tammy Duckworth showing her support for the Great Lakes and EPA funding in September 2017

We saw a similar attempt last year, when Trump’s 2018 budget proposal included a complete elimination of the GLRI, and we fought back with the force of millions of Americans who know the value of a healthy Great Lakes. We showed that protecting the Great Lakes is a bipartisan issue, because we all need clean water to drink and economic drivers to thrive in our Midwest communities. We were happy to see Congress pass a 2018 budget that included full funding of the GLRI.

Our elected officials stood with us in rejecting Trump’s previous proposal to slash Great Lakes funding, and we expect they will do so again in response to this repeated senseless attempt. It is time to invest in our Great Lakes and our communities, and we will not stand for the Trump Administration trying to turn their backs on us by cutting jobs and threatening the progress we have made in restoring the health and prosperity of our region.

The proposal also calls for slashing EPA’s 2019 budget by 34% from 2017 to $5.4 billion — an even deeper cut than Trump sought last year. The EPA’s efforts to clean up toxic pollution, restore degraded ecosystems and respond to environmental threats cannot be done without sufficient funding and staff. At a time when crumbling infrastructure threatens the delivery of safe, clean water and climate change is bringing storm events at unprecedented levels, it is completely irresponsible to abandon successful efforts to protect our resources and make our communities more resilient.

We’ve seen what happens when the agencies charged with protecting our environment aren’t given the funding and resources needed to do their job effectively. Last year we saw an oil spill in the Chicago River, multiple chromium spills into Lake Michigan by U.S. Steel (a facility with numerous permit violations) and an overall drop in penalties sought against polluters in Illinois under Rauner’s EPA. Our Great Lakes and other waterways, as well as the air and land across our region, need protection against dangerous pollution that threatens our health and the future of our resources.

We again call on members of Congress and all of us who depend on the Great Lakes to stand up and do what our region has always done to show that protecting this precious resource and supporting a strong EPA should be a top priority for the entire nation, starting with the federal budget.

Sign the Great Lakes Protection Pledge to tell your legislators to stand up for the Great Lakes.

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All Hands on Deck event in Chicago, July 2017

Farmers, Agriculture Suppliers, and Clean Water Advocates Mark Five Years of Partnership in Nutrient Research and Loss Reduction

Peoria, IL – Farmers and environmentalists celebrated the first five years of the Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council (NREC) this week, a unique partnership aimed at supporting research and farmer education on fertilizer practices that improve water quality and economics. Since its inception in 2012, Illinois NREC has invested nearly $9.8 Million into nutrient related research efforts.

IMG-3175The celebration, held during the Illinois  Fertilizer and Chemical Association’s annual convention at the Peoria Civic Center, featured remarks from Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, who sponsored the original legislation as a State Senator in 2012. The legislation enacted a $1 per ton fee on agricultural fertilizer sales to fund Illinois NREC and related programs of the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

“Clean water is essential for our health and our environment, and agriculture is Illinois’ number one industry,” said State Treasurer Michael Frerichs. “I applaud the collaboration between environmental and agricultural interests to create NREC and build consensus on strategies that protect our water supply and work for farmers.”

“Limited state resources, combined with serious water quality challenges, inspired us to reinvent the way we fund and deliver nutrient research in Illinois, and it took everyone working together with the legislature to accomplish this.” said Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association President Jean Payne.

“This partnership with farmers is critical in implementing the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy and to clean up nutrient pollution in our lakes, streams and rivers,” said Dr. Cynthia Skrukrud, Clean Water Program Director for the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter. “NREC’s research identifies science-based strategies that will protect our water supply and work on the farm.”

Jeff Kirwan, Chairman of Illinois NREC, Illinois Farm Bureau Director and Mercer County farmer said, “NREC has proven to be a great opportunity for Illinois agriculture and our environmental partners to collaborate and learn from one another about nutrient stewardship – an issue of critical interest to both groups. NREC has provided the venue for us to work together, share successes and concerns and work together to move the needle towards increased nutrient efficiency. Everyone wins when we effectively manage nutrients – it adds to farmer bottom line and decreases the potential for unwanted nutrients making their way into our water systems.”

More information about the Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council is available at illinoisnrec.org.

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Julie Armstrong, Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council Executive Director; Jean Payne, President, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association; Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs; Sierra Club Illinois Director Jack Darin, Sierra Club Illinois Clean Water Program Director Dr. Cindy Skrukrud

 

 

 

2018: Resolved to Resist & Renew

We’re thrilled to start 2018 stronger than ever after a 2017 that tested all of us.  In the face of a full frontal assault from Trump, Pruitt, and their fossil fuel allies, we started Illinois on the path to a 100% clean energy future, defending the EPA and the Great Lakes against severe cuts, marched in solidarity with vulnerable communities, and continued to build a bigger, more diverse environmental movement. We’ve added thousands of new members, built new community partnerships, and welcomed hundreds of new activists and leaders like you.
2018 is the year Illinois decides if we will step up to lead on the environment, and we are 100% in to elect leaders who share our values and will champion clean energy, clean water, nature, and environmental justice.  You can read our 2018 Platform and join us by making a new year’s resolution to be 100% in for Illinois environment.