Bill to Protect Monarch Butterfly Habitat Passes in Senate Today

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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.

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How Data Transparency Could Drive Energy and Cost Savings

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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.  

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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.

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    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. 

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    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

Illinois Governor Candidates Commit to Bold Actions At Sierra Club Forum

Sierra Club held its first ever Illinois Gubernatorial Candidate Forum Saturday, October 14th at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a crowd of over 500 witnessed a spirited exchange between candidates who are rivals for the Democratic nomination, but in broad agreement that Illinois should do much more to lead on the environment.

“It is crystal clear, given the rollbacks, the cuts, the denial of science, and attempts to divide our communities that are coming at all of us from the Trump administration, that Illinois must step up to lead,” said Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin. “Illinois must lead if we are to make progress against threats like climate change and toxins in our drinking water, and even to protect the tremendous progress we have made together as a society.”

Trump’s moves against climate action, and steps by Governor Rauner’s Illinois EPA to weaken clean air standards for coal plants drew strong rebukes and commitments to move Illinois in an entirely different direction – to a 100% clean energy future.

State Senator Daniel Biss said “I strongly support a firm commitment to move Illinois to 100% clean energy mix, and was the first candidate to do so.” Tio Hardiman agreed, saying “I plan to be a champion for renewable energy, and as a community organizer will build a movement for this goal.” Chris Kennedy pledged to begin with state properties, saying “we can make the State of Illinois commit to using 100% renewable energy for its buildings, and put the entire state on that same trajectory as well.”  J.B. Pritzker said “we need to move this state to 100% renewables, and we must invest in clean energy and battery technology, as I have as an individual, in order to get to that goal,” before apologizing for leaving the event early to attend an event downstate, and introducing State Senator Heather Steans as his surrogate for the remainder of the forum.

The health of Illinois’ water supply was top of mind, with candidates sharing plans for protecting drinking water and Illinois’ rivers and lakes. Kennedy pledged to involve the public in the fight for clean water by informing residents about their water quality to inspire them to action.

Biss said that truly universal access to clean water would come at a cost, but that is clearly worth it to stop poisoning our children and put people to work on water projects in communities that need it most. Steans said Pritzker plans to replace 100% of lead service lines in Illinois, expand existing nutrient control programs, and develop a state water use plan to ensure sustainability of community supplies.

Biss and Kennedy each expressed opposition to the proposed Route 53 extension in Lake County. Kennedy also described the proposed Illiana expressway as “like one of those zombies in one of those movies – it’s time to put a stake in the heart of that thing and move on.” Biss said “investing in mass transit and sustainable transportation is an important part of acting on climate change and reducing carbon emissions. We have to have a holistic view of what transit means across the state – trains, buses, and access to economic opportunity.” Steans did not take a position on specific projects, but said that Pritzker would understand that we cannot look at road projects based on political considerations, but on technical merit. Hardiman also declined to take a position on specific projects, while noting his support for mass transit.

Each of the candidates lamented the long decline in staffing and budget at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and shared their personal connections to Illinois’ outdoors.

Steans pointed out that Illinois ranks 48th out of 50 states when it comes to protected open space per capita, and stressed Pritzker’s commitment to rebuilding the DNR and recognizing the economic benefits of state parks and natural areas. Biss said that the “hollowing out” of IDNR was “unthinkable”, and a result of the Governor “throwing the environment under the bus” when it comes time for budgeting decisions. “People protect what they love, and I love places like our lakefront, the savannahs along the Des Plaines River, the Mississippi bluffs, and the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge,” said Kennedy.

Each candidate acknowledged the importance of planning for the transition to a clean energy future, and the importance of including workers and communities historically dependent on fossil fuels in the benefits it will bring. Biss said  “We need a clear, focused plan to match specific opportunities with impacted workers in the communities where they live, not someplace else.”

Kennedy said his approach to utilities operating in Illinois communities would be “when you stop, you need to clean up the mess you made, and return your site to the community in the condition you found it, and you need to make sure your employees’ pensions are safe. Hardiman agreed, and added that we need to expedite renewable energy in these areas.  Steans said Pritzker “knows this transition is coming, and that his economic plan includes support for infrastructure, clean energy, and agriculture investment to help” and said he is  “100% against fracking – we’ve seen the impacts for water and seismic activity.” All pledged their support for rules requiring cleanup of

All candidates pledged a focus on environmental justice, and focused on the connection between environmental threats and racism and income inequality.

Pritzker began his remarks by quoting the Old Testament: “Justice, justice, shall you pursue”, and then continued “Bruce Rauner and his Koch Brothers, right-wing network, has sold out this state, and put profits over people. We’ve got to stand up to them, to say ‘no’ when they say it’s OK if we pollute the air and make it harder to breathe to help the profits of the fossil fuel industry.  We need a Governor who stands up for environmental justice in particular.” Biss said “It is the responsibility of our movement to protect communities of color and those who have been left behind.  This is about the white privilege that exists in every corner of our policymaking system, our economy, and our country, and we have to do something about that. Hardiman stressed his background in community organizing and peacemaking, and the fact that he would be Illinois’ first African-American Governor. Kennedy talked about diesel pollution in Chicago neighborhoods, the vulnerability of poor communities to storms, and “terrible environmental hazards in poor communities” as violations of Catholic social justice doctrine.

Governor Rauner was invited to participate but did not respond.

Hurricane Recovery Fundraiser!

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On Oct. 10, the Solidarity Team of Sierra Club’s Chicago Group joined a national Hurricane Relief Day of Action by hosting a fundraiser for Puerto Rico at the Chicago Office.

All funds from this event will be donated to community organizations in Puerto Rico working to address relief and recovery needs in the wake of Hurricanes Maria + Irma and the subsequent government neglect.

The event was attended by two dozen individuals, including State Senator Omar Aquino and US Representative Luis Gutierrez. Sen. Aquino and Rep. Gutierrez spoke about the impact that the storm has had on communities, and of their relatives back in Puerto Rico. Huge portions of the island remain without power and running water, and the individuals impacted the most are the most vulnerable: infants, the elderly, and those in hospitals.

“Imagine an 80 year-old trying to live their life in a disaster zone with limited electricity and running water,” Rep Gutierrez told us. Rep. Gutierrez shared more about the impact that US policy and the financial industry has had on Puerto Rico. Predatory lending has left the island in paralyzing debt, and the island’s finances are now largely controlled by an appointed (unelected) board of seven individuals.

In addition, an old and outdated power grid has exacerbated the impact of the storms. Rep Gutierrez sees renewable energy (siting the reliable sun and wind on the island) and Puerto Rican Sovereignty as key to Puerto Rico’s future. The situation in Puerto Rico right now is a tragic example of economic, bureaucratic, and environmental racism in the United States. The solidarity team was grateful for the opportunity to make a small, positive impact in what is otherwise a devastating situation. Our fundraiser raised $1400! It’s also not too late to contribute. You can donate to community recovery efforts in Puerto Rico here.