December Discussions on Climate Action

CC Forum 1 - Setup

Last week we welcomed December with blustery temperatures and 3 noteworthy events related to climate action! December 1st marked the one year anniversary of the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA); On December 3rd, nearly 1,500 Chicagoans attended the Chicago Community Climate Forum at the Field Museum; and over December 4th and 5th, Mayor Emanuel hosted representatives from more than 50 cities at the North American Climate Summit. Each unique in its own way, these events engaged constituents and elected officials alike in discussions about the bold, collaborative, and systemic strategies needed to lead our communities, city, and state to a 100% clean energy future. If you’re interested in getting involved with our 100% clean energy campaign work as a volunteer, fill out this form so that we can keep you updated about upcoming training details.

On December 3rd, nearly 1,500 guests attended the Chicago Community Climate Forum at the Field Museum. In celebration of diverse, community-led climate solutions, the evening’s program featured the voices of various environmental leaders from across the city. In addition to the testimonies of the importance of education and advocacy, the program highlighted the critical need to recognize the social injustices that are interwoven with our climate issues. A performance by Kuumba Lynx clearly identified environmental racism as a systemic problem and warned solution seekers that “you can’t go green if you don’t go Black”.

IMG_4941

Sunday’s forum featured panelists (from left to right): Dallas Goldtooth (Indigenous Environmental Network), Anthena Gore (Elevate Energy), Abigail Derby Lewis (The Field Museum), Alex Poltorak (Urban Canopy), and Toni Morrison (Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab).

The evening concluded with a video launch of the Chicago Agreement on Climate and Community and a reception designed to inspire conversation and new partnerships among attendees. More than 60 organizations, including the Sierra Club, were involved in coordinating the evening’s program which speaks to the fact that Chicagoans are ready to get to work. We are ready for bold programs and policies to protect our lands, prevent the contamination of our water and air, safeguard our health, ensure access to quality and nutritious food, and develop clean energy opportunities.

To read the Chicago Agreement, check here. For a more detailed recap of Sunday’s program, consider the Hanley Foundation’s recap.  

24982588718_c9718918c1_z (1)

Representing millions of people from cities across the world, over 50 mayors gathered to sign the Chicago Climate Charter. Photo Credit: Bloomberg Philanthropies Flickr

In light of the limited federal leadership on climate issues, local governments are putting forth bold and innovative strategies to move America towards a cleaner, healthier future. Over December 4-5, Mayor Emanuel hosted the North American Climate Summit in Chicago. The event brought together mayors from more than 50 cities, including Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Vancouver Mayor Robertson, and Dar es Salaam Mayor Charles Mwita, and Vice Chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors Christiana Figureres to sign the Chicago Climate Charter.

While enabling mayors to make specialized pledges based on their city’s particular needs and assets, the Chicago Charter reflects a baseline of commitments such as: meeting standards of the Paris climate agreement, collaborating with traditionally underrepresented groups in climate policy, and willingness to quantify and publicly report city emissions. As members of panel discussions and during breakout discussions, mayors were able to discuss local climate solutions and challenges they have experienced as they transition to a new climate economy.

IMG_E4993

Some of the 2017 Bloomberg Philanthropies awardees with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

As the Summit’s special guest, President Obama thanked attendees for their continued work towards managing and mitigating the climate issues affecting our world. Encouraging guests, he offered that we are each endowed with the ability to make a difference on these issues “wherever we have some impact, wherever we have some influence”. President Obama’s remarks reminded everyone that the work to do be done will involve a sense of collective work and responsibility. Despite what policies may come from Washington, we are able to hold our communities and cities to higher standards to secure a safer and healthier world for ourselves and future generations.

37972340325_a20acfb54e_z

President Obama encourages North American Climate Summit guests. Photo Credit: Bloomberg Philanthropies Flickr

The Summit served as a platform to promote collaborative solution-seeking and a rededication to the globally shared responsibility to improve our environment’s health, safeguard constituents’ health, and equitably construct policy. Despite the tailored emission metrics and localized strategies to achieve them, there was a commonly articulated goal for many mayors at the Summit: developing a 100% clean energy economy.

Mayors from across America and the world offered that a complete transition from fossil fuels was one of the most aggressive and time-withstanding ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb the rising global temperature. Repeatedly amplifying the message that economic growth can accompany such a transition, mayors who have made 100% renewable energy commitments strongly encouraged others to consider doing the same. Several Ready for 100 mayors were present and proud to share their commitment to an equitable energy transition in their city before 2035.

December’s debut was filled with conversations about climate action and we at the Sierra Club are confident that the momentum will continue into the new year. As our state and city celebrated notable programming and policies, we are sure that Illinois and Chicago are ready for bold leadership, innovative strategies, and strong community-wide partnerships. Are you ready? If so, keep reading!

This year, we’ll be supporting volunteer leaders across the state, as they work to get their municipalities to commit to 100% clean energy as a long term goal. Are you interested in learning how to lead or engage in a bold + equitable campaign around clean energy justice in your community? We’ll be hosting a training in 2018 for volunteers across the state who want to launch 100% campaigns in their communities. Let us know if you’re interested in joining by filling out this form and we’ll keep you updated.

Advertisements

Debunking Myths and Taking Action to Stop Asian Carp

 

Asian Caro.jpg

Invasive Asian carp are an urgent threat to the health of the Great Lakes, and the people and economies that depend on the lakes and their resources. The Sierra Club and its partners have long advocated for a comprehensive solution to the risk of these fish invading the Great Lakes, along with the other aquatic invasive species that threaten both the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin.

While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been tasked by Congress with finding a solution to invasives moving into both basins, their current efforts are heavily focused on Asian carp and their upstream movement. The Chicago Area Waterways system provides an artificial connection between the two basins, created over 100 years ago when the Chicago River was reversed to send wastewater downstream to the Illinois and then Mississippi River.  We must address the consequences of this artificial connection to protect our vital freshwater resources.

carp-map-PRN-2017

Map showing location of locks, Asian carp populations and the current electric barriers within the Illinois river system. 

Earlier this year, the Army Corps completed a draft report detailing their Tentatively Selected Plan to install controls at the Brandon Road Lock in Joliet, Illinois in an effort to prevent Asian carp from moving upstream towards Lake Michigan. The new deadline for submitting comments on this report is December 8, and a fourth public meeting to present the report and gather input will be held on December 5 in New Orleans.

Let’s take a look at what’s included in the Tentatively Selected Plan.

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 2.20.05 PM

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 2.20.49 PM.png

None of these proposed control methods will stop traffic from moving through the lock. Electric barriers are used elsewhere in the river system, and the other technologies can be deployed without preventing current operations. While this combination of control methods cannot provide 100% confidence that Asian carp will not move through the lock, they will reduce the risk of transfer and add an additional stopgap between the current population and Lake Michigan.

In a recent news article, the president of Illinois Marine Towing Inc. claimed: “The new plan for structural barriers would slow shipping from 11,000 barge passages per year at Brandon down to 7,000.” According to the Army Corps, there is no factual basis for this claim in their analysis, and these figures don’t align with actual lockages at Brandon Road. Obviously, the impacts to transportation would be highest during construction of the project, when the shippers are expected to temporarily use another method of transportation during construction (estimated conservatively at 40 days) and then return to their normal operations after construction is complete. But outside this period, the reduction in lockages is not predicted at this mythical scale.

Another “alternative fact” we’ve seen recently came from the State of Illinois’ Lieutenant Governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti who was interviewed for an article in Ottawa’s The Times: “Last summer a live Asian carp was found in the Calumet River, less than 10 miles from Lake Michigan. But Sanguinetti said an autopsy and other testing shows it did not arrive via the Illinois River.” According to Dr. Greg Whitledge at Southern Illinois University’s Department of Zoology, who performed the autopsy on the fish caught over the summer, it is incorrect to conclude that the fish definitely did not arrive at its collection location via the Illinois River.  The chemistry of the fish’s earstones (otoliths) are consistent with prior residency in the Illinois and Des Plaines Rivers.  Whether it arrived in the Calumet River on its own or was moved there (i.e., transported around the barriers and released) cannot be determined.

Silver Carp from Calumet.jpg

A live Silver carp was found in June 2017 beyond the current electric barriers in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS), just nine miles from Lake Michigan. 

So, it is possible that this Asian carp did arrive via the Illinois River. And it is possible that other Asian carp will move through the Illinois River system towards Lake Michigan without additional protections to stop their movement. While we greatly appreciate the work that staff of state agencies like the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are doing to remove large amounts of Asian carp from the river system, it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to fish these voracious invasive species to extinction.  

It’s far past time to get serious about a permanent solution to the problem of Asian carp and all aquatic invasive species threatening our waterways. The State of Illinois should be working proactively with other states and agencies to identify and implement such a solution, rather than dragging their heels and placing declining waterway use by barges over the future of our most important natural resource. Both can be protected if we work together effectively.  

In the face of these myths and inaccuracies, we must bring science back into the conversation and work together cooperatively to ensure that an effective, holistic solution is implemented to protect the Great Lakes, a national treasure, economic driver and drinking water source for over 40 million people.

Please submit your comments before Dec. 8th to tell the Army Corps to move forward expeditiously with their plan to install controls against invasive Asian carp. For help submitting a comment, use our Action Alert.  

 

Bill to Protect Monarch Butterfly Habitat Passes in Senate Today

milkweed

This year Illinois Sierra Club worked with, Representative Anna Moeller (D-Elgin) and Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake), to pass two important pieces of legislation aimed at helping the monarch butterfly. Back during the spring session, HB2568, designating milkweed as the state wildflower, passed both chambers and was signed into law in August. Also during the spring session, HB685, which provides that counties and municipalities may not classify milkweed as a noxious or exotic weed, passed the House, but got delayed from a vote in the Senate. But, all that changed today when HB685 passed in the Senate  41-6-1.

Over the last 20 years monarchs have seen a precipitous 80 to 90 percent decline in population due to environmental threats, including a drastic reduction in native milkweed, the only source of food for monarch larvae. Of the twenty-three species of milkweeds that are native to Illinois, five are listed as endangered, and one is listed as threatened on the federal endangered and threatened species list.

Lonnie Morris, an Illinois Sierra Club volunteer and longtime advocate for monarchs, proposed the ideas for both bills. Morris believed that designating milkweed as our state wildflower would raise awareness of its importance as monarch habitat. She also discovered that many municipalities listed milkweed as a noxious weed, preventing people from planting it in their gardens. The passage of HB685 today in the Illinois Senate is particularly important because it comes at a time when habitat for monarchs and other pollinators is being seriously threatened.  We need to be planting more milkweed,  not banning it.

In addition to the Illinois Sierra Club, the Illinois Environmental Council and Prairie Rivers Network supported both bills in an effort to increase monarch butterfly habitat in Illinois. Each spring and fall monarchs make their way through Illinois during their 3,000 mile migration between Mexico and Canada and back to Mexico. But this trip is becoming increasingly perilous due to massive habitat loss, climate change, and unintentional exposure to insecticides and herbicides.

Monarchs were named Illinois’ State Insect several years ago, so recognising the value of milkweed, the monarch’s only host plant,  is a logical next step in monarch protection.

Monarchs serve as a beautiful reminder that all pollinators are vital not only for the survival of native plants and animals, but also that our crop plants require pollinators, making them essential for our food system. In total, pollinators provide $10 billion in economic value annually in the United States.

How Data Transparency Could Drive Energy and Cost Savings

*UPDATE*

Thank you to everyone who took action in encouraging the update of the Chicago Energy Benchmarking Ordinance.  On November 21, the Chicago City Council approved the update! For more information, consult the Chicago Energy Benchmarking Homepage and a list of frequently asked questions.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Approximately 50% of Illinois’ carbon pollution is from electricity generation by coal, nuclear, and natural gas plants. These aging plants are polluting our air and water at the cost of our health and climate. Fortunately, Illinois continues to develop its clean energy economy that will build new opportunities, reclaim polluted land, and create thousands of jobs.

This vision for the state reached a historic milestone when the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) was passed in Illinois in December 2016 and went into effect on June 1, 2017. Check out the footer of this post for more information about FEJA and the benefits it can bring to Illinois.*

Along with Illinois’ statewide clean energy plan, the City of Chicago is establishing itself as a clean energy leader.  The City remains committed to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and is 40% of the way to achieving its 2025 goal of a 26-28% greenhouse gas emission reduction. On April 9, 2017, Mayor Emanuel and the City of Chicago announced that the City’s municipal buildings will be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2025.

In October 2017, Mayor Emanuel proposed an update to the Chicago Energy Benchmarking Ordinance, which has been used to evaluate and improve energy efficiency in buildings across the city since 2014. The proposal strengthens the original Ordinance by making buildings’ energy usage easier to understand and more accessible to the public. The update would specifically apply to buildings 50, 000 square feet or more, which account for fewer than 1% of the buildings in the city. Despite the small quantity, these buildings represented 22% of energy use by all buildings when the Ordinance was passed.

The original Ordinance requires that building owners and managers annually measure and report their building’s energy use. Based on various criteria such as property size and number of occupants the building is given an ENERGY STAR score on a scale from 1 to 100. The Ordinance update will express the ENERGY STAR as a 4-star rating (see mock image below) that will be prominently displayed in the building and made available at the time of sale or lease.

energy-star

The new 4-star rating system is an easy way to express the building’s energy efficiency.

The proposed addition to the Energy Benchmarking Ordinance will require no additional measuring or reporting by property owners or managers. Furthermore, there is not an obligation to make improvements based on a building’s score. The new strategies, however, enable current and prospective owners, residents or businesses to make informed decisions about operating costs related to energy in the building. The system may encourage more consideration of the many cost-saving energy efficiency programs available in Illinois. Incentive and rebate programs are available through major utility companies like ComEd and People’s Gas so that energy improvements can be made at little to no cost. The Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act also will increase funding for these programs so that residents across the state can benefit from these improvements. psp take action button2

Chicago residents, contact your alderman to show your support of the Updated Chicago Energy Benchmarking Ordinance which will empower the public to make more informed choices about their energy usage.

Creating more transparency and accessibility to energy use data is an important step in cutting energy costs and fossil fuel pollution. By supporting the new Updated Energy Benchmarking Ordinance, we can ensure that building managers, owners, businesses, and residents have a clearer understanding of how their energy dollars are used. Collectively, we can make Illinois a national leader in sustainability and energy conservation efforts.

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————–*FEJA is the result of years of grassroots organizing driven by thousands of community members with the support of advocacy partners and clean energy companies.

Key Benefits of FEJA

  • Invests $5 billion in energy efficiency programs to reduce families’ electricity bills
  • Allocates $180-220 million a year towards the purchase of energy produced by renewable sources
  • Directs $189 million, plus $10 million annually, to incentivize solar development and fund job training programs, including those for economically disadvantaged communities in every part of the state
  • Reduces air pollution by diminishing our reliance on fossil fuels by an estimate of 32 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030

 

A night of adventure will help Chicago youth connect with the outdoors

Facebook header 851 x 315.jpg

Get your tickets for the Adventure Film Festival!

This Sunday, Chicagoans will gather at the Music Box Theatre for an evening full of some of the year’s best independent outdoor films, delicious food and drinks and the warm feeling of supporting a good cause. At the end of the night, raffle winners will go home with new outdoor gear, gift certificates from great local businesses and memberships to Chicago favorites like Divvy, Corepower Yoga, the Chicago Botanic Gardens and First Ascent rock climbing gym.

See Award-Winning Films

Theatre.jpgFrom serious outdoor exploration to environmental heroism, the Adventure Film Festival showcases gripping tales from the edge of the believable. Witness gritty, profound, shocking, visceral, and inspiring films that manifest the spirit of adventure. These journeys and stories are where dreams are born and legends are made.

The Adventure Film Festival will feature 2017 award winners on a World Tour traveling from Boulder to Chicago, New York, Santiago, and several major cities in between.

The series of films being featured in Chicago include stories about at risk teens facing their fears to climb mountains in Brazil, incredible yet controversial Grey Wolf recovery efforts in Colorado, big-hearted strangers carrying the boots of a lost adventurer along the Appalachian Trail, and more!

VIP Experience at a Great Value 

Gift BagsArrive early and pay only $25 more for the full VIP experience. A private reception in the theatre’s lounge from 4pm to 5pm will include complimentary food and drinks, gift bags full of great gifts from our sponsors and a chance to mingle with other film enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers. VIP ticket holders will also get priority seating in the theatre for the best view of the big screen.

Inspire a Love of the Outdoors for Chicago Youth

All proceeds go to the Sierra Club’s Chicago Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO). Chicago ICO is a volunteer-run community outreach program that provides opportunities for Chicago youth to explore and protect the natural world, while developing their leadership skills and honing a love of the outdoors. Proceeds from the film festival will help us expand our reach to engage more youth and increase the number and ambition of outings.

ICOTreePlanting

ReedCamp08-1.jpeg     Camping Hackmatack 18.jpeg

A Pattern of Success

In 2015, our first Adventure Film Festival sold out at the Logan Theatre. In 2016, we moved to the Music Box Theatre for a larger venue and had another successful event. This year, we’re excited to bring more people together around a love of the outdoors, adventure, great films and a passion for getting more kids outdoors to connect with nature.

Special thanks to our local sponsors, Arc’Teryx and Moosejaw, for supporting Chicago ICO, and to Patagonia and Intrepid Travel for sponsoring the Adventure Film Festival!

2017sponsors (1).jpg

Join us!

Don’t wait – get your tickets now to secure your seat one of Chicago’s best events for outdoors enthusiasts, film fanatics and activists alike. Click here to purchase tickets and click here to share with your friends on Facebook.  See you there!

MusicBox calendar ad-2 (1)

Illinois Fracking Permit Withdrawn Statement of Jack Darin, Director, Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter

Woolsey Operating Company, LLC has withdrawn its fracking permit and associated application for a wastewater injection well in White County Illinois. The permit was the first horizontal fracking permit to be issued since the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act was enacted in 2013, and recently approved over the objections of area residents and thousands of Illinoisans. Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter, had this reaction:

“This decision comes as a relief to residents in White County and across the state who objected to the permit granted by the Rauner Administration. However, the relief is only temporary until Illinois tells the oil and gas industry that dangerous fracking is not welcome here. We must not let the mounting incidences of water contamination, air pollution and increased seismic activity associated with horizontal fracking to happen here in Illinois. Illinois should prioritize clean energy and the thousands of jobs it promises, rather than sacrificing our water to bet on the ups and downs of fossil markets.”

Time for a time-out on massive warehouse and distribution centers in Will County until a plan is in place that protects our communities

Residents of Will County strongly urge a moratorium be placed on the annexation and zoning for new warehouses and distribution centers in Village and City jurisdictions of Will County until Will County completes a comprehensive land use and transportation plan.  Building on the Will County Community Friendly Freight Mobility Plan’s emphasis on protecting quality of life and improving existing roads, we now need a comprehensive land use and transportation plan that protects our communities from industrial developments that negatively impact our quality of life, natural resources, and air and water quality.

trans-hubs-usWhile the county can lead the land use plan, it is up to municipal officials to approve or deny the zoning for new warehouses and distribution centers. The impacts of new warehouses do not stop at municipal boundaries.  Traffic from warehouses built in Elwood and Channahon affects roads in Joliet and New Lenox.  We need our municipal leaders to work together to protect the quality of life of all citizens.

It’s time for a time-out on massive warehouse and distribution centers until we have a plan in place that protects our communities.  Citizens of Will County want to preserve quality of life so that industry complements rather than overruns the region’s rich agricultural heritage. Citizens want diverse, sustainable economic growth rather than over-reliance on one sector.  Citizens want to ensure their families continue to breathe clean air and drink clean water, and that new industrial facilities don’t pollute and decimate the beautiful natural areas that are important to the community’s identity and economy.  

nctakeaction65423

That plan is critical to the safety, health and quality of life of my community in that it will:

  • Promote safe and efficient movement of freight through Will County while protecting others on our road system;
  • Protect the prime farmland and open spaces that are growing economic assets to our region, and home to rare wildlife and recreation opportunities;
  • Place the highest value on environmental justice and quality of life for those of us who live, work and recreate near the freight traffic, warehouses and distribution centers.

Five important reasons to create a comprehensive land use and transportation plan:

  1. The transportation infrastructure cannot handle current traffic levels.  I-80 through Joliet is frequently a bottleneck, causing some drivers to divert onto local roads.  The I-80/53 interchange is crumbling and cannot handle traffic levels.  Since our roads are at capacity, it would be illogical to add more warehouse traffic.  traffic-conjestion
  2. Many warehouses sit vacant. It does not make sense to pave over some of the richest farmland in the world when there are empty warehouses and land already zoned for warehouses available.

    prime farmland in Will County

    Prime farmland is a prime asset of Will County–it should be protected, not paved over.

  3.  Air quality must be protected. While intermodal is often touted for its environmental benefits in terms of placing containers on rail instead of trucks, the hubs–like Will County– experience massive amounts of diesel exhaust due to the convergence of semis in one area to pick up and drop off shipping containers.  Elected officials need to protect our air quality and health by examining what measures Will County can take to move toward zero-emissions, electric vehicles.  
  4. Sensitive natural areas must be protected. Will County is home to natural areas that provide habitat to rare grassland birds and freshwater mussels. Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and the Kankakee River cannot be replaced and must be protected from the diesel fumes, runoff, and the sound and light pollution that accompanies warehouse developments. 

    tallgrass prairie

    Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Will County stretches across 20,000 acres. Photo: The Wetlands Initiative

  5. We must take a hard look at whether the corporations locating in Will County are paying warehouse workers a living wage. We must also take a hard look at what percentage of goods moving through Will County are made in the United States.  If taxpayers are asked to help pay for the infrastructure to support these warehouses, then taxpayers have a right to question whether this system of globalism makes sense for people and the planet. will-county-openspace