Metro East Mayors Sign the Mayor’s 100% Clean Energy Endorsement

Local leadership on clean energy is more important than ever. With this being said we cannot overlook the significance of  three Mayors in the Metro East taking bold steps playing a  powerful role in making 100% Clean Energy a reality and using their voices and influence to help spread the message.

On August 11, Granite City Mayor, Ed Hagnauer, became the first downstate mayor to sign the Sierra Club’s Mayor’s for 100% Clean Energy Endorsement — an initiative calling on all mayors — regardless of political party, from big cities and small towns – to support a vision of 100% clean and renewable energy in their cities, towns, and communities, and across the country.. 

Mayor Hagnauer has worked closely with the Granite City Cool Cities Committee to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in municipal operations since 2012. Many of the initiatives the City has undertaken such as replacing an aging municipal fleet with fuel efficient hybrid models have been significant steps towards reaching these reductions.  Mayor Hagnauer commented that “it has always been our goal to be as energy efficient as possible, transitioning to 100% renewable energy, like wind and solar will protect our community from pollution, create new jobs and local economic opportunities.”

To date, Edwardsville’s Mayor Hal Patton and Alton Mayor Brant Walker have also signed on. Mayor Walker commented that “In light of increased flooding events the City of Alton has endured during my administration our resolve is strengthened to a build a more resilient community and transitioning to 100% renewable energy is a logical step in achieving this.”

We are witness to disasters happening all across the country and the globe that threaten lives, our energy security and public health.Local action to mitigate these threats is the foundation on which the transition to 100% clean energy is built upon. We commend the Mayors of the Metro East region for their leadership towards this goal.

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Harvey, Labor Day, and the Fight for $15

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As most Americans enjoy a Labor Day weekend of barbecues, beaches, and the last days of summer, millions in Texas and Louisiana are dealing with a stunning human tragedy from a rain event without precedent.

Harvey’s devastation has been tragic, unprecedented, shocking, and yet, to be expected. For decades now, scientists have been warning that climate change would lead to just this kind of devastation.
So why haven’t we, as a society, done more to prevent it?
Unfortunately, one reason is that climate change and severe weather threaten poor and communities of color the most, and yet these most vulnerable are unable to fully protect themselves as long as they are marginalized by systemic poverty and racism.  People who are struggling to put food on the table and afford health care, who are terrorized by violence, and who are targeted by hate have less time, resources, and power to stand up against climate change and the dumps, smokestacks, floodplain development, toxic sites and other environmental risks that tend to be clustered in minority and disadvantaged communities.
Earning a living wage and the right for workers to organize are critical to breaking these cycles of poverty, and empowering each and every one of us to participate fully in our economy and society.  That’s why the Sierra Club supports policies that raise wages for our most vulnerable, like the $15 minimum wage that the Illinois General Assembly passed this year, only to be vetoed by Governor Rauner.  Sierra Club opposes “right to work” or other attacks on the rights of workers to form unions, because we need a skilled workforce to build safe and clean water, transportation, and energy infrastructure. Unions also protect workers who call out unsafe conditions or violations of the law in the workplace, which protects them and the communities around them.
The threats to working people from climate change are mirrored by the economic opportunities offered by its solutions.  We need to prioritize communities of color for good jobs in clean energy, as we are doing with the Illinois Solar For All program under the Future Energy Jobs Act. We are counting on unions to provide the training for these jobs, and to help ensure this work pays a living wage in safe conditions.
To solve climate change and seize the benefits of the clean energy economy, we need to overcome the extremely powerful few who benefit from the status quo. We cannot do that until each and every one of us who want a better future for our communities and our children are empowered to join our movement, and for many a living wage in a good job are critical first steps.
That’s why the Sierra Club is marching with our labor and community allies on Labor Day in the Fight for $15 and union rights, and we invite you to join us.  Our thoughts will be with the millions suffering in the wake of Harvey and from injustice, and on building a bigger movement to win a better future.

Clean Energy Town Hall

Chicago residents, community organizations, and businesses are invited to participate in a clean energy town hall with Rep. Stratton on Tuesday, August 29, 2017.

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RSVP Link below:
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Groups applaud release of Asian carp study, urge swift action to move from study to construction

Alliance for the Great Lakes   •   Natural Resources Defense Council
Prairie Rivers Network   •   Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter

Chicago, IL (August 7, 2017) – After much delay, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today released the Brandon Road Lock & Dam Study. The study provides critical new information on the options for implementing additional Asian carp control measures to slow the movement of the invasive fish. Environmental and conservation groups released the following statement in response:

“The recent finding of an adult Asian carp nine miles from Lake Michigan underscores the urgent nature of this threat to Lake Michigan and all of the Great Lakes. The study, which was completed months ago, should have been released in February yet the Administration sat on it in reaction to pressure from industry groups and officials from the states of Illinois and Indiana. This delay wasted valuable time, putting the Great Lakes at unnecessary risk.

“We look forward to reviewing the findings in detail and to continuing the conversation on this critical issue with elected officials and concerned citizens during the public comment period. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must listen carefully to public input on the study and then move quickly from study to implementation of additional protection measures at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, a logical choke point in the system.

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Map showing locations of key features, or measures, of the tentatively selected plan at Brandon Road Lock and Dam. [Source: USACE]

“While possible control measures at Brandon Road Lock and Dam represent another step in the fight against the upstream movement of Asian carp, we cannot lose focus on the need for a two-way solution that also addresses invasive species moving from the Great Lakes into the Mississippi River basin.

“Thank you to the many Congressional Great Lakes champions who have advocated for the release of this study. Continued effort by elected officials will be needed to ensure the process is not delayed further and funding is appropriated for future construction needs.”

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Media Contacts:

Alliance for the Great Lakes: Jennifer Caddick, (312) 445-9760

Natural Resources Defense Council: Ivan Moreno, (312) 651-7932

Prairie Rivers Network: Robert Hirschfeld, (217) 344-2371 x8205

Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter: Cindy Skrukrud, (312) 251-1680 x110

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The Brandon Road Draft Integrated Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement is available for review at the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) site.

Comments will be accepted through October 2, 2017. They can be submitted online or mailed or delivered to:

US Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District
231 S. LaSalle St. Suite 1500
ATTN: GLMRIS – Brandon Road Comments
Chicago, IL 60604

The Corps will hold a series of public meetings in order to open a dialogue and obtain feedback. Scheduled meetings are:

  • September 11, 2017 from 1 to 5 p.m. at James R Thompson Center, 100 W Randolph St., Chicago, Illinois
  • September 14 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Muskegon Community College, Collegiate Hall, 221 S. Quarterline Road, Muskegon, Michigan
  • September 18 from 3:30 – 6:30 p.m. at Joliet Junior College, “U” Conference Center, 1215 Houbolt Road, Joliet, Illinois

During the meetings, the Corps will provide a presentation on the tentatively selected plan that includes structural and nonstructural options and technologies for preventing upstream transfer of aquatic nuisance species, such as Asian carp, at Brandon Road Lock and Dam on the Des Plaines River. Oral and written comments will be accepted at the meetings. A webinar and Facebook Live format will be provided for the September 14 and 18 meetings. Meeting details will be posted at the GLMRIS Public Meetings page.

Our Ride Ended, But The Campaign To #SaveTheGreatLakes Continues

My husband and I set out this summer to ride our bikes around Lake Michigan in an effort to help #SaveTheGreatLakes. On our ride we met people from all different places and of all different backgrounds, who were visiting Lake Michigan for all different reasons. Some were bike tourers like us, while others were just there for the day to enjoy the beach with their families. What brought us all together were the Lakes.

Protecting the Great Lakes have never been a partisan issue – the lakes provide us with drinking water, help power industry, and are a source of rejuvenation, recreation, and beauty for so many. They’re what make our region great, and programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) are necessary to ensure they are just as great for future generations.

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We saw the impact of the GLRI firsthand. From Muskegon, to Sleeping Bear Dunes, to the Upper Peninsula and back down through Wisconsin, folks depend on the Federal funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to help restore ecological integrity and enhance natural beauty. We saw decades of industrial and agricultural discharge cleared away to reconnect the Lake to rivers and tributaries in Muskegon, Michigan. We saw gulls and loons, healthy and free to fly due to increased efforts to fight avian botulism and the zebra and quagga mussels that spread it. We saw fragile native plants flourishing in the Sleeping Bear Dunes, thanks to GLRI efforts to crack down on invasive and competitive baby’s breath. GLRI projects are as diverse and variable as the ecosystem itself, and indeed the GLRI touches nearly every part of life around the Lakes.

While I was riding, a new federal budget was proposed that fully restored funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Trump’s original budget completely eliminated this program.  While this is a win for the Great Lakes and all of us who care about them, the budget still severely reduces overall critical funding to the Environmental Protection Agency. This new proposal is like funding fire trucks without funding the firefighters – a moot point and a hollow promise from a federal government determined to attack and dismantle the necessary work the EPA does. It is so important that we do all we can to keep fighting, to support and defend the EPA. It’s a winnable fight, if we keep at it together.

We were unable to finish our trip due to a death in the family. But saving the Great Lakes is so much bigger than a bike ride. It’s a long road and an uphill climb, and we will only be able to do it if we work together as one. We still need to make sure that the final budget keeps in the GLRI funding, and fully funds EPA. But I believe in our power. I believe in the Great Lakes, in this movement, and in our vision of a healthier and more just planet.

We can save the Great Lakes. We can save the Great Lakes together. I hope you’ll join us.

 

I’m almost to my (new!) goal of raising $2500 to help #SaveTheGreatLakes. Will you help get me there?

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I took a long ride along Lake Michigan in Chicago before going back to work.

If you haven’t already signed the pledge, do so here.

Our Neighbors in East Chicago Face Water Crisis — You Can Help

0700-EastChicagoEast Chicago, IN is facing a water crisis due to lead contamination. Residents have been organizing relentlessly to address this and other environmental injustices in their community. Let’s support our neighbors by helping ensure that until this crisis is fully addressed, they have access to clean, drinkable water.

Throughout the month of July, we’ll be collecting bottled water and replacement filter cartridges (PUR Max Ion rf- 3375) at our Chicago office (70 E Lake St., Suite 1500) for residents of East Chicago. Email Katrina Phillips to arrange a donation drop-off or make a monetary donation online at www.teamsierra.org/illinois/waterdrive.

We know that long-term, we MUST have robust investment in our public water systems, strong public health protections, and a well-funded Environmental Protection Agency–all serving the concerns of the communities. We realize bottled water (and even home water filters) are NOT a long-term solution for any of our communities. In the meantime, we want to support the vital organizing work and urgent needs of East Chicago residents by being one of a number of parties helping to provide this resource.

Thank you for your help and to the Community Strategy Group for keeping us updated on the situation and needs of the community.

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References:

(1) chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/lead/ct-east-chicago-lead-water-20170302-story.html

(2) fox59.com/2017/02/06/epa-officials-up-to-90-of-homes-in-east-chicago-in-have-lead-water-lines

(3) chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2017/04/04/some-east-chicago-residents-fleeing-lead-contamination-are-being-moved-to-chicagos-toxic-doughnut

Service and Serenity in the Colorado Rockies

Last month, I spent a week in the Colorado wilderness with three high school students from Chicago and a small group of Sierra Club members from California, Oregon and France (yes, France!). The students participate in the Sierra Club’s Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) program, which strives to empower youth from communities with limited access to connect and reconnect to the outdoors – for the benefit of both.

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The outdoors and the creatures who live there certainly benefitted from the hard work and dedication of these young people as we took down old barbed wire fence that harms wildlife, built new wildlife-friendly fencing and removed invasive weeds. And when we finally reached the peak of a 12-mile hike with a view of Elk Falls (on our “rest day”), the students felt the benefit of connecting with the natural world at 10,000 feet. Their willingness to challenge themselves and live outside their comfort zone was inspiring, which is where the benefit comes in for me. I’m filled with hope and motivation when I see the future in these young people, who could lead the next generation of environmental advocates and justice warriors.

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We spent the week camping near and working on the historic AG Ranch in Shawnee, Colorado, where the Rocky Mountain Specialty Pack String – 11 mules, 2 saddle horses, and lead packer, Glenn Ryan – have their home. One of only two full regional specialty pack strings, they provide low-impact heavy hauling into wilderness and limited-access areas, train others in packing, and educate the public. Their important presence serves to preserve wilderness values in our public lands by providing heavy hauling without the need for mechanization. We had the opportunity to support the protection and maintenance of public lands by helping to improve the facilities that are home to this exceptional operation of the U.S. Forest Service.

The service work we did was difficult and tiring, but the interactions we had with Glenn and his interns, who showed us how to do the work and explained why it’s important, made us feel satisfied and accomplished at the end of each long day. The time we got to spend with the horses and mules on the ranch was an added bonus.

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While we typically take Chicago ICO participants on day trips and overnight car camping trips in the Chicago region, the opportunity to take a few young people on a National Service Trip once a year provides a unique experience and a chance to deepen connections. I see huge value in all of us feeling connected to the environment in our communities, but there’s really nothing like spending some time in the mountains, sleeping in a tent and gazing at the stars. To get away from the city and be surrounded by wilderness was a gentle push from Mother Nature for us to calm our minds, open our eyes and breathe.

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I hope the students felt the calm and serenity that I found so refreshing, and enjoyed the break in normal life and routine. The other participants and leaders on the trip expressed that having the young people there brought a new energy (quite literally—the students were often the first ones up at the crack of dawn!) that added something special to the experience.

As we returned to Chicago, I felt refreshed and inspired to continue our work growing the ICO program, connecting people with the outdoors and empowering young people to be leaders in their communities and in the environmental and social justice movements. We need them, and the hopelessness that sometimes washes over us as we face the world’s current challenges seems to fade away as we see their energy and passion to do good and fight for the future.

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Chicago ICO at Red Rocks 2

To learn more about the Chicago ICO program, visit our webpage here

To find out more about Sierra Club service outings, visit our outings site.