Landmark Energy Bill Creates a Path for Thriving Clean Energy Expansion in Illinois

The Future Energy Jobs Bill will invest more than $750 million in low-income programs, including new Illinois Solar for All Program to prioritize new solar development and job training in economically disadvantaged communities.

The Future Energy Jobs Bill will invest more than $750 million in low-income programs, including new Illinois Solar for All Program to prioritize new solar development and job training in economically disadvantaged communities.

Yesterday, after nearly two years in the works, the Illinois state legislature passed the much anticipated sweeping energy bill. The bill brings together a wide variety of stakeholders to modernize Illinois’ energy policy including much needed updates to the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS). These updates will open the door for more clean energy development across the state, create tens of thousands of jobs, and provide Illinois with a strong path forward in moving beyond dirty and expensive fossil fuels.

The Sierra Club has worked with partners for more than two years to build a stronger, more inclusive clean energy economy in Illinois. With the passage of this bill we see the results of that grassroots effort made possible by the widespread popular support for advancing clean energy investment in our communities and acting on climate. We’ve made thousands of calls to Illinois legislators, knocked on doors, and rallied thousands of supporters from Chicago to Springfield to Alton. While this bill contains difficult compromises, this is a tremendous leap forward for clean energy in Illinois. With these policies now in place and strengthened, we will continue the work to reduce dangerous carbon pollution, support opportunities for family-sustaining jobs in Illinois’ energy economy, ramp up renewable energy and ensure that clean energy opportunity is prioritized for communities burdened for decades by pollution.
Clean energy technology is growing every year in Illinois. These policies will nurture that shift away from fossil fuels, bolster our energy economy, and help ensure that every Illinois community can thrive in the clean energy economy. With federal climate action being more uncertain than ever, it is more important than ever that states act decisively on climate change, and Illinois is doing just that.

Monarchs Need You: Sign Up for a Monarch Decal!

Monarch butterflies are counting on you! Sign up for a monarch license plate decal! This decal will help fund the planting of roadside habitat for monarchs in Illinois.

You can apply for your decal in three easy steps:
Download, print, and fill the form out, including “Monarch Roadside Habitat” for “Name of Specialty Plate Being Requested.” Send the form in to the Secretary of State’s office with a $10 check.

monarch-from-terri-usfwsAs soon as 2000 people sign up, a decal will be created and mailed to you. Please let us know you completed the form by filling out this survey so we can track sign ups and make sure the Secretary of State has your information.

The beautiful orange and black butterfly is a familiar garden visitor in the Midwest, but it may not be part of our future.

The monarch butterfly is a beloved insect in the U.S. and the state insect of Illinois. The monarch’s incredible annual migration of nearly three thousand miles (over several life cycles) between Canada and Mexico is an unrivaled natural phenomenon. Due to its location, Illinois happens to be one of the most important places along the monarch’s annual two-way migration. Therefore, providing habitat and protections for monarchs in Illinois is essential to their continued survival.

The monarch is in trouble.  In the past twenty years, 173 million acres of its midwestern breeding habitat has been lost, the equivalent to the state of Texas, converted to cropland for the growing ethanol industry, scoured of milkweed from farm fields by herbicide usage and plowed under for buildings for an expanding human population.

As the breeding areas and habitat along the migration route have disappeared, the population in 2014 sank to as low as 90% below historic averages.

There are challenges at the monarch wintering site in Mexico as well. Illegal logging is reducing the size of the oyamel fir forests which provide the right temperature and moisture conditions during the winter. Extreme weather events in both the summer and winter territories are contributing to the precipitous population decline.

The situation has reached a point where the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety have petitioned U.S. Fish and Wildlife for endangered species designation for the monarch butterfly.  An agreement has been reached that a decision will be made by June 2019.

Please consider purchasing a decal and help us save this iconic species!

Press Release: Sierra Club Announces General Assembly Endorsements, Launches Clean Energy Voter Contact Campaign in Key IL Battlegrounds

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Contact: Kady McFadden, kady.mcfadden@sierraclub.org, (630) 747-0915

Sierra Club Announces General Assembly Endorsements,
Launches Clean Energy Voter Contact Campaign in Key IL Battlegrounds
Organizing Staff & Volunteers on the Ground For Clean Jobs Bill Supporters

Chicago – The Illinois Sierra Club today announced its endorsements in races for the Illinois General Assembly and its largest ever voter contact campaign in some of Illinois’ most hotly contested battleground state legislative districts. Sierra Club’s full list of endorsements can be found here.

“We are proud to support candidates who want to fight through gridlock in Springfield to protect our drinking water, open spaces, and create clean energy jobs to cut carbon pollution,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter.  “These are leaders who take a stand for our future by supporting the Clean Jobs Bill and other policies to protect our environment and create good jobs, and we are proud to recommend them to Illinois voters.”

Sierra Club’s Illinois endorsements can be found at https://illinois.sierraclub.org/vote2016. To support these candidates, Sierra Club has fielded a staff of paid organizers and is mobilizing its grassroots membership base in swing districts in southern, central, and northeastern Illinois to inform voters about where candidates stand on energy and environmental policy.

“Across Illinois, we are finding that voters are fed up with partisan and personal attacks, and eager for information about where candidates stand on the issues that are so important to our future,” said Kady McFadden, Deputy Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter.  “That’s why we’ve sent smart, well trained organizers out to mobilize our members and have face to face conversations with voters in communities across Illinois. We aim not to attack, but to inform, and be a breath of fresh air in an all too often negative campaign season.”

Sierra Club has fielded 12 paid organizers in recent weeks to mobilize voters to elect Sierra Club endorsed candidates, as well as activate the organization’s 80,000 members and supporters across Illinois to volunteer and vote for these candidates.  Already, Sierra Club staff and volunteers have knocked on over 8,000 doors to talk to voters about endorsed candidates, and identified over 1,500 voters who have committed to voting for clean jobs supporters.  By Election Day, Sierra Club aims to have 50,000 contacts with Illinois voters about these candidates and issues.

Sierra Club’s contacts with Illinois voters on behalf of endorsed candidates are funded by Sierra Club Illinois PAC.  Copies of our reports are available from the State Board of Elections in Springfield, Illinois.

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Lead pipes: In Chicago, out of sight should not mean out of mind

Joint op-ed by Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin and Rick Terven Jr, Legislative and Political Affairs Director for the Illinois Pipe Trades Association published in Crain’s Chicago Business August 23, 2016.
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Lead may be out of sight but it is not out of mind.
When we turn on the faucet, we expect that we’ll be drinking and using clean, safe water. As we’ve seen in Crain's LogoFlint, Mich., and in cities around the country—including Chicago, Highland Park,Galesburg and probably many others—that isn’t always the case. There is lead in the water of many cities, schools and homes. And it is something we need to solve now, not later.
There are over 1,700 community water systems in our state overseen by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. They serve more than 11.9 million residents. While the agency says 96.5 percent of these community drinking water systems are in full compliance with all health requirements, it also reports that “there are still more than 400,000 people in Illinois at health risk due to aging infrastructure.”

 

One of the hurdles to addressing this problem is that there isn’t nearly enough data. We can’t get the lead out of our water supply until we know where the lead is. And in many cases, we don’t. Communities may not even know they have a problem, much less where the lead pipes actually are in their systems. Under our streets and in buildings, these pipes are often hidden from view—out of sight, out of mind—but they pose a real threat to our safety. It’s long past time for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to step in and update its Lead and Copper Rule to make sure Americans know whether the pipes below them present a danger. We need a national inventory of these pipes—like we have for the natural gas pipes under our feet—and we need it now.

 

There’s an effort underway in Springfield to find these pipes and other infrastructure that needs to be modernized or replaced. The Illinois Senate has approved Senate Bill 550—a step forward in the fight for clean, safe water. This bill will also protect schoolchildren from lead poisoning by requiring testing of all drinking fountains and other sources of drinking water in our schools. We applaud state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, and state Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago, for sponsoring this proposal and urge the Illinois House and governor to quickly enact it into law. These are strong first steps, and combined with action from local, state and federal leaders, it will begin to help Illinois reduce the potential of lead exposure in our water.

Another example of action is happening in Galesburg. The city received a $4 million state grant to cover the cost of replacing approximately 2,000 lead service lines, which is nearly half its total lead lines. The principal of that loan will be forgiven, leaving the city to only pay the interest. This is exactly the type of program into which our state should be investing. Cities won’t be able to do this alone; we have to come together as a state and do the right thing by our children and grandchildren.

At the federal level, there are continued attempts to secure funding for Flint and other cities that are facing lead problems. Aside from congressional action, however, labor and environmental organizations are urging the U.S. EPA to update the Lead and Copper Rule with the requirement of a national inventory of pipe materials and to provide communities with more education on the dangers of lead in our water.

There are other benefits to taking action beyond making sure that our children are protected from the dangers of lead. Good middle-class jobs can be created and sustained cleaning up this mess. A recent report from the University of Illinois found that the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District that serves greater Chicago boosted the regional economy by $1.27 billion and created over 13,000 jobs in 2014. Increasing that investment also increases both the economic impact and the jobs impact.

With a concerted effort, we can face and overcome this problem. In doing so, we will both protect communities and grow quality, family-supporting jobs here in Illinois and around the country.

Jack Darin is the chapter director of the Illinois Sierra Club. Rick Terven Jr. is the legislative and political affairs director of the Illinois Pipe Trades Association, a collaboration of 19 local unions and 1,500 union contractors in Illinois, Iowa and Indiana.

Hiking Together for Our Planet

Our Clean Water Advocate, Katrina Phillips, participated in Climate Ride’s Climate Hike through Glacier National Park from August 3-7. Before the trip, she raised over $3,000 (with the help of many generous donors) to support Climate Ride and her chosen beneficiary organization, the Illinois Sierra Club. Feel free to email her at katrina.phillips@sierraclub.org if you want to learn more! 

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 As we ascended Apgar Mountain on the first day of our trip in Glacier National Park, I couldn’t help but don a ridiculous grin as I alternated between watching my footing on the path ahead and looking around me at the vast expanse of valleys and mountain ridges in the distance. I was finally experiencing the product of a seemingly long ago commitment, months of fundraising and a hectic weekend of scrambling to collect the right gear and pack my bags for the Montana wilderness.

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The immensity of the mountains and the landscape in view made me feel small in the way I think we’re supposed to feel when we consider our impact on this planet and the trace we will leave behind. We are one species among many, as I was reminded throughout the week by the sight of grizzly bears, moose, bighorn sheep and other wildlife that call the park home. We can’t afford to continue living unsustainably in the face of climate change and the challenges of limited resources, and our fellow species can’t survive the impacts of our wasteful actions.

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Glacier National Park provides us with a glimpse of the ways we are directly affecting what was once wild, and of our broader impacts on the planet and its climate. I saw a pile of discarded pistachio shells attract a band of chipmunks plump from food left behind by the many visitors to the park—projected to reach 3 million this year. At the top of the mountain, a melting glacier gave us an alarming view of how our collective actions are changing the climate and the landforms that depend on it. According to ongoing scientific studies, even the park’s largest glaciers could vanish by 2030. These visible impacts show that the “Leave No Trace” mantra cannot just apply to our behavior as we enjoy national parks, but must also guide the way we live our lives and treat our daily surroundings.

Climate Hike gave me the chance to see an incredible place seriously threatened by climate change, but it also gave me inspiration and appreciation for the work groups like Sierra Club are doing to bring environmental protection into the policies, media, political discourse and daily conversations that shape our country and the world. This work is critical because climate change isn’t just a phenomenon that’s melting glaciers in faraway places. It’s affecting the livelihoods of people who depend on predictable weather and a stable climate, the health of people in nations where good health care is scarce and disease is rampant, and the homes of people and animals where severe storms, flooding and heat waves are wreaking havoc. When I close my eyes and picture the beauty of Glacier National Park, and when I think about what’s at stake all over the world, I feel energized to continue this fight.

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Along with the incredible views, the beauty of the mountains and the mystique of its wild animals, my experience in the park gave me inspiration through the company I hiked over forty miles with and the conversations we shared. From age sixteen to sixty-five, my twenty-one fellow Climate Hikers each came with their own stories and reasons for being there. Whether it was to preserve the planet for their children, save the peace and serenity of nature for mental health patients they’ve treated, or to give back to the places that have served as refuges for their own sanity, the motivations each person brought to the experience gave me a renewed passion for the work we’re doing together. I know that every donor, volunteer, activist and staff member that I interact with on a daily basis has their own unique reasons for dedicating their time, money and energy to this effort. When we come together with the collection of our own stories and the stories we carry from others, our message becomes powerful and our actions form a movement.

This experience would not have been possible without the incredible generosity of the over fifty donors who contributed to my fundraising efforts and showed up to our fundraising events. I cannot say thank you enough and I am so excited to continue our work together for the planet.

If you’d like to make a donation, you can still do so here until December 1st. Thank you!

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Environmental Justice Legislation Signed Into Law

Legislation expanding the Illinois Environmental Justice Commission  was passed by both chambers and signed into law by Governor Rauner on July 8th.  The legislation adds members to the Commission on Environmental Justice, including new affected community members and labor representatives.  The bill was sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson in the Senate and Rep. Silvana Tabares in the House.  The effort was led by Illinois environmental justice advocates, and Sierra Club supported their efforts through our volunteer lobbying program and our staff in the State Capitol.

The Illinois Commission on Environmental Justice, created in 2011, requires that no segment of the population, regardless of race, national origin, age, or income, should bear disproportionately high or adverse effects of environmental pollution. The Commission has administrative and other support from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Its duties are to review and analyze the impact and adequacy of current State laws and policies on the issue of environmental justice and sustainable communities; and, to recommend options to the Governor for addressing issues, concerns, or problems related to environmental justice, including prioritizing areas of the State that need immediate attention.

SB2920 added 4 new members to the board—2 from business and labor and 2 additional, for a total of 4, from affected communities. It also removed the Dept. of Aging and added the housing office of the Dept. of Human Services.

From the Illinois EPA website:

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA or Agency) is committed to protecting the health of the citizens of Illinois and its environment, and to promoting environmental equity in the administration of its programs to the extent it may do so legally and practicably. The Illinois EPA supports the objectives of achieving environmental equity for all of the citizens of Illinois.

“Environmental Justice” is based on the principle that all people should be protected from environmental pollution and have the right to a clean and healthy environment. Environmental justice is the protection of the health of the people of Illinois and its environment, equity in the administration of the State’s environmental programs, and the provision of adequate opportunities for meaningful involvement of all people with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

The assumption of this policy is that it is evolutionary. Environmental Justice policies and activities will continue to develop, as appropriate, through the normal course of the Agency’s regulatory and programmatic duties. In addition to the normal evolution of the policy, the Agency is planning outreach activities to gather comments and public input for this spring. The Illinois EPA recognizes that this policy alone will not achieve environmental equity in all instances. Moreover, public and private commitment to the implementation of this policy is needed to achieve the goals of this policy and to promote environmental equity in this State.

Earth Day 2016: Citizens for Climate Action

Illinois celebrated Earth Day this year with a rally and lobby day in Springfield.

The Sierra Club partnered with community leaders, climate activists, unions, and many other allies to bring over 350 people to the state’s capital to push for the passage of urgent environmental legislation.

On the top on the agenda was the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill, a bill to ramp up renewable energy like wind and solar to 35 percent by 2030, cut energy use through efficiency by 20 percent by 2025, and limit dangerous carbon pollution. Activists also rallied and lobbied to begin a stakeholder process on state implementation of the Clean Power Plan, to protect clean energy funds from budget sweeps, and to ensure environmental justice participation in Clean Power Plan implementation.

The day started bright and early for many participants who boarded buses from their communities to the capitol:

The bus from Waukegan

The bus from Waukegan

Supporters gathered around the Lincoln Statue to hear from legislative champions and grassroots leaders. Of special note, we had a number of speakers from local Sierra Club teams and coalitions:

Dulce Ortiz from Clean Power Lake County spoke of the need to create a just transition for Waukegan’s lakefront. Props to Celeste Flores—our new Waukegan Beyond Coal organizer for inviting Dulce to speak, and for recruiting a full bus!

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Dulce Ortiz

Eden Vitoff, a high school student with Green Lyfe who has partnered closely with Metro Green Alliance, spoke about the need to protect the climate for future generations. Props to Elizabeth Scrafford for recruiting Eden to her campaign and getting 31 folks from Alton to join for the day!

Eden Vitoff

Eden Vitoff

JC Kibbey, a researcher with Unite Here Local 1 and member of Chicago Sierra Club’s Executive Committee, spoke about the importance of the partnership between labor and the environmental community.

JC Kibbey

JC Kibbey

After the rally, participants dropped off postcards at the Governor’s office, calling on him to pass the Clean Jobs Bill and begin a Clean Power Plan stakeholder process in Illinois. Many participants lobbied their legislators on top environmental bills.

Pastor Norma Prays with Sen. Haine that make the right decision to support the Clean Jobs Bill.

Pastor Norma prays with Sen. Haine for support the Clean Jobs Bill.

Pastor Norma prays with Sen. Haine for support the Clean Jobs Bill.

The postcards we dropped with Governor Rauner

The postcards we dropped with Governor Rauner

Big thank yous to: Illinois Climate Table—especially partners Faith in Place, People for Community Recovery, Illinois Environmental Council, Unitarian Universalist Advocacy Network of Illinois, and Moms Clean Air Force; Press Pro: Emily Rosenwasser; Email hack: Debra Cohen; Legislative wizards: Christine Nannicelli, Terri Treacy, & Jack Darin; Organizing gurus: Kady McFadden, Allison Fisher; Sierra Club volunteer teams who rocked the turnout and the Captial: Woods & Wetlands/Clean Power Lake County,  Heart of Illinois/Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance, Piasa Palisades/Metro East Green Alliance, Illinois Statewide Clean Power Team; bus and carpool captain extraordinaires: Tim Milburn, Pastor Vance, Hari Lambda, Doris Davenport, Julian Chavez, Melinda Elliott, Celeste Flores, Erin Crilly, + Elizabeth Scrafford; Pastor Norma Patterson who brought her fiery spirit to speak at the Alton rally and make metro east legislators squirm as she prayed over them that they would do the right thing and co-sponsor the Clean Jobs Bill.

Press Hits:

WCIA Springfield

http://www.illinoishomepage.net/news/local-news/day-early-earth-day

Alton Telegraph

Rally for ‘clean jobs’ held in Upper Alton

WHBF Quad Cities

http://www.ourquadcities.com/news/clean-energy-rally-held-in-illinois

Preview from the RiverBender (Alton)

http://www.riverbender.com/articles/details/alton-to-join-hundreds-to-rally-in-springfield-for-clean-energy-and-climate-action-for-earth-day-12598.cfm

WBGZ Radio (Alton)

http://www.altondailynews.com/news/details.cfm?clientid=17&id=211913#.Vxpx8_krLcs

WAND

http://www.wandtv.com/story/31782183/earth-day-of-action-rally-underway-at-state-capitol

NBC Week/ABC HOI-19 CINewsNow Peoria

http://www.cinewsnow.com/news/local/Hundreds-travel-to-Springfield-to-rally-for-cleaner-energy-376636851.html.