Packed Town Hall Forum Shows Support for Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition

Town Hall 2.10.15

On Tuesday night, the Sierra Club was thrilled to be joined by Senator Bill Cunningham, Representative Kelly Burke and Representative Fran Hurley and a town hall forum discussing Illinois’ clean energy potential at Moraine Valley Community College. A panel of experts, including Harry Ohde from IBEW Local 134, Bryan McDaniel from Citizens Utility Board, Stephenie Presseller from Moraine Valley Community College, and Jack Darin from the Illinois Sierra Club joined a standing room-only crowd of over 100 people for a lively discussion. The Clean Power Plan was especially highlighted, but panelists also emphasized the consumer savings and economic opportunities presented by clean energy.

This event is the first of many clean energy jobs forums planned across the state since last week’s launch of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, an unprecedented partnership between the Sierra Club and more than 50 organizations that aim to ramp up renewables and energy efficiency in the state. The coalition supports raising energy efficiency standards to 20% by 2025, and renewable energy standards to 35% by 2030.

Undoubtedly, much of the event’s success was due to the hard work of Sierra Club volunteers. Members helped with phone banking, petitioning, postering and group outreach to ensure high attendance at the event. The forum represents the dedication of volunteers in the Southwest suburbs to growing the grassroots support it takes to win strong environmental legislation.

“Illinois has a historic opportunity right now to boost our clean energy economy, cut dangerous pollution and address the threat of climate disruption,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We thank Sen. Cunningham, Rep. Hurley and Rep. Burke for their leadership to convene this important conversation on how we can create good jobs in clean energy in Illinois.”

For folks looking to get involved in the campaign, there will be an action meeting at the Oak Lawn Panera Bread (10553 Cicero Ave, Oak Lawn IL 60453) at 7PM this Tuesday, February 17th.

Victory at North Canton Mine

Streams Feeding Canton Lake Saved

court-order1With the signing of a Circuit Court Consent Order on January 16, 2015 to terminate the North Canton Mine mining permit, two big victories were realized. First, the order to stop the strip coal mine in the watershed of Canton Lake protects the public drinking water supply for half the population of Fulton County from mine drainage pollution. Second, the victory set in motion a fundamental change in the way the Department of Natural Resources will evaluate permit applications going forward. No longer will the Department be able to ignore the regulatory definition of “intermittent” stream.

IMG_1352Sierra Club volunteers and others requested a public hearing on the mine permit in 2006. In 2008 the Sierra Club’s Heart of Illinois Group worked with local residents to form the Canton Area Citizens for Environmental Issues (CACEI). The groups teamed up with Prairie Rivers Network to fight this badly located and designed mine. Believing that the Department had not characterized the streams correctly in the permit, members of CACEI and the Heart of Illinois Group petitioned the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for an Administrative Review of the mine permit in 2008. The review hearings finally began at the end of May 2012 and took 12 days spread out from May to the end of August.

N Canton Cindy getting sample south of Brereton Rd on  tributary to West Branch Copperas Creek_096Based on expert testimony given by Dr. Cindy Skrukrud, Sierra Club Illinois Chapter, Clean Water Advocate and Chuck Norris, hydrogeologist with Geo-Hydro Inc, Denver, Colorado, in February 2013 the Hearing Officer removed one tributary and its 163-acre watershed from the mining plan. Legal work by attorney David Wentworth with the Peoria law firm Hasselberg Grebe Snodgrass Urban & Wentworth proved that the state permitting agency had made its own internal decision to use only one half of the state law on stream characterization. The case decision ruled that the petitioners proved beyond preponderance of the evidence that the application for the mine permit failed to list Stream 6 as an intermittent stream, thus failing to provide information as to the protection of the stream as required by mining law. The decision stated that baseline surface water information submitted by Capital Resources in its application was insufficient to meet the requirements of 62 IL Administrative Code 1780.21(b) [Final Order pp 26-27]. In June of 2013, Capital Resources submitted a revised application for the remaining 921 acres. The IDNR immediately approved the revision to the application as an insignificant revision, and simultaneously granted a 5-year permit renewal. \ Sierra Club and local citizens saw the revision to the application as very significant, rendering the original permit obsolete.

Required permits from the IEPA to allow discharges from the coal mine (NPDES permit) and destruction of the tributary streams by mining activities (401 certification) were neither approved nor denied as of the date of the court order ending the mining permit.

CACEI Donation from Cindy Aug 2013 006Sierra Club and local citizens filed for State Administrative Review of the IDNR permit renewal in the summer of 2013. Earlier that spring, Sierra Club and Brenda Dilts filed an appeal of the IDNR Hearing Officer’s February decision into Circuit Court in an effort to save the remaining tributaries. We argued that the revised plan in no way matched the December 6, 2011, mine operations plan that North Canton LLC presented at the IEPA hearing, which the mine contended would protect Canton Lake from discharges.

Not long before a scheduled three-hour hearing before the circuit court judge, Capital Resources communicated that they were going to stop all plans for mining and asked that the hearing be cancelled as ‘moot.” Attorney David Wentworth asked for a continuance of the court case until issues regarding the site and subsequent actions by the mine company could be placed into an agreed Consent Order. The order was finalized on January 16, 2015.

N Canton mature oak forest saved_106After 8 years, dedicated efforts, a lot of bake sales, candy sales, garage sales, and fund-raiser help from Illinois Chapter Sierra Groups as far away as the River Prairie Group in suburban Chicago, to donations from mine community members in other parts of the state, this strip mine has been stopped. The beautiful rolling Copperas Creek valleys, tall mature oak and hickory timber, and productive farmland along scenic tree-lined country lanes bordered by horse pastures and family farms will not be blasted and bull-dozed down fifty to over eighty feet deep for the one time taking of coal. Rubble will not be bulldozed back with a couple feet of top soil put on top to mask the long-term damages to the layers of sand, gravel, and the natural drainage nature built up over the eons to make this watershed.

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The battle was long and hard and locals faced discrimination and numerous attempts to intimidate them, but they never gave up.

 

Citizens Win Eight-Year Battle to Stop Coal Strip Mine

Local Water Resources Saved Upstream of Public Water Supply Lake

IDNR Stream Protection Errors Exposed

CoalMineNixed

CANTON, Ill. – The court case contesting the North Canton coal strip mine permit was officially ended January 16th, winning an eight-year battle by citizens of Fulton County to protect Canton Lake and its watershed that supplies drinking water to over 20,000 residents. Capital Resources Development Company LLC, an affiliate of Springfield Coal Company LLC, asked to terminate its Permit No. 385 before citizens reached a full court hearing where they had challenged the mine and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) regarding errors in the permit approval.

“For the residents of Canton and Orion townships this is wonderful news for our water supply and for our land,” said Brenda Dilts, Leader of the Canton Area Citizens for Environmental Issues, Canton Lake and Its Watershed (CACEI). “We did not want an arm of Springfield Coal, the company that had racked up over 600 water permit violations at the Industry Mine, discharging polluted water into our public water supply lake. The strip mine would destroy much of the natural drainage and be harmful to the environment, the watershed and to the people in the community.”

In February 2013, Sierra Club and members of CACEI won a state administrative level permit appeal in part and saved a major stream corridor proposed for strip mining about one mile upstream of Canton Lake. Sierra Club and a member of CACEI then filed in Fulton County Circuit Court in an effort to protect the five other streams in the strip mine permit. Most of the streams feed into the main tributary of Canton Lake, a public drinking water supply source.

During the permit challenge brought by the citizens, IDNR admitted on the witness stand, and the Department’s Hearing Officer found, that IDNR had an unwritten policy to ignore a part of its own regulatory definition of “intermittent stream,” thereby circumventing greater stream protections in the permit approval process.

“My farm and home would have been directly across from this mine if it had proceeded,” said Joe Cooper, member of CACEI. “I am so grateful to CACEI, Sierra Club, and all the local Canton people who helped raise alarms about how this could ruin our lake watershed. The state mine permit should never have been approved for this mine. The state mining agency simply was not doing its job to enforce the laws on the books. We proved that.”

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“Planning a coal strip mine in the watershed that feeds the drinking water lake that supplies water to over half the population of Fulton County was never a good idea,” said Dr. Cindy Skrukrud, Clean Water Advocate for the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club. “It took years of community pressure and legal action for this coal company to realizethat. We’re looking to the IDNR to make the institutional changes necessary to protect the integrity of vital water resources like Canton Lake in its permitting decisions, in line with the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.”

Citizens raised funds to hire an attorney and an expert hydro-geologist through bake sales, garage sales, and a wide range of fund-raisers over the years. Springfield Coal Company owns other mines and also makes revenue back-hauling coal ash from power plants for dumping at old mines.

“The significance of Springfield Coal Company’s permit withdrawal cannot be overstated. This coal company – with sites all over the state and all kinds of coal reserves – was defeated by the dedication, caring and hard work of local citizens,“ said Joyce Blumenshine, Heart of Illinois Group Sierra Club Chair. ”Our attorney, David Wentworth, with the Hasselberg Grebe Snodgrass Urban Wentworth firm in Peoria, had a tremendous case to stop this mine. We fought hard in the community and in court to protect the lake and streams. The fact the mine decided to give up on the eve of our court hearing says a lot.”

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Contact:

Brenda Dilts,  Canton Area Citizens for Environmental Issues, 309-338-9748

Joyce Blumenshine, Heart of Illinois Group Sierra Club, 309-678-1011

 Dr. Cindy Skrukrud, Illinois Chapter Sierra Club,  312-251-1680 x110

Let’s Kill The Illiana Tollway Boondoggle In 2015!

no illiana logo v3.1This week Governor Rauner issued an executive order that puts a hold on the proposed $1.3 billion Illiana tollway, bringing a ray of sunshine to local residents, taxpayers and environmentalists. Now, more than ever, Governor Rauner needs to hear from you that this project is a boondoggle!

Please sign and share our petition to Governor Rauner to kill the project for good.

The Illiana tollway is a 47-mile road that will cut through and destroy 3,165 acres of prime farmland, including centennial farms, stripping people of their land and livelihoods. The Illiana tollway is a fiscally irresponsible project that contradicts sound regional planning, saddles taxpayers with debt, fails to address traffic congestion, and is opposed by every major newspaper in the state.

The tollway will impact the environment of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Midewin is our nation’s first federally protected tallgrass prairie, featuring rare and endangered grassland birds and the planned reintroduction of bison. The Illiana would also pollute the Kankakee Watershed.

In additional news, Governor Rauner announced the appointment of former head of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), Randy Blankenhorn to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).

Last year, CMAP issued a scathing report on the Illiana Tollway releasing findings that the tollway would “provide negligible traffic benefits” and  that the “estimated cost and potential financing structure expose the State of Illinois to considerable financial risk.” If the tollway is built, Illinois will forfeit $440 million to $1.1 billion to compensate for flagging toll revenue.

We will be delivering the petition at the end of January.

Please sign and share our petition to Governor Rauner to kill the Illiana project for good!

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Quinn Vetoes Bobcat Hunting

Today Governor Quinn vetoed legislation that would have allowed bobcat hunting in Illinois. Bobcats had been on Illinois’ threatened species list due to hunting and habitat loss, but have begun to return to some parts of Illinois.

Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois issued this statement:

“This action will ensue that these magnificent predators will continue to return to Illinois’ forests. Bobcats were once an important part of the ecosystem here in the Prairie State, and their recovery is an important victory and milestone for conservation in Illinois.

We applaud Governor Quinn for taking action to protect Illinois bobcats, and for all he has done to protect the Prairie State for future generations. Pat Quinn and his team worked hard to protect Illinois’ last wild places, and restored Illinois’ ability to preserve our natural heritage after a decade of devastating cuts to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. He leaves Illinois a legacy that includes newly protected lands across Illinois, and dedicated funding for the professionals at IDNR we count on to protect our natural resources.”

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.
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