Sierra Club, Friends Seek to Join Attorney General in Trump Tower Lawsuit

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On Monday, August 20, 2018, Friends of the Chicago River and the Sierra Club filed a motion in Cook County Circuit Court to intervene in a lawsuit against the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago.

The lawsuit stems from permit violations by the Trump Tower which uses 19.7 million gallons of Chicago River water a day for cooling. The Tower has ignored federal and state laws and regulations that require buildings, especially new ones, to minimize damage to fish and other aquatic life from water intake structures and to implement protective measures.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit August 13, 2018. Earlier on June 15, 2018, the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club and Friends of the Chicago River had provided notice of their intent to sue the Chicago Trump International Hotel and Tower over its continuing violation of the Clean Water Act based on their investigation.

Regarding the request to intervene in the state lawsuit, Friends of the Chicago River Executive Director Margaret Frisbie issued this statement: “Friends of the Chicago River is eager to join forces with the Attorney General to assure the law is enforced and the river is protected. We have worked for decades to improve the health of the river and help transform it into a natural, recreational, and economic asset for the region. We want to protect those investments, the health of the river, and the wildlife that depends upon it.”

Jack Darin, Sierra Club Illinois Chapter Director, said: “Over and over we’ve heard Donald Trump say ‘we want crystal-clean water, and we want clean air — the cleanest ever’ but his actions say otherwise. For years, Trump’s tower on the Chicago River has been violating the Clean Water Act. It’s disappointing that the Rauner administration turned a blind eye to these violations for years, but we are now hopeful that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We will work with the Attorney General to ensure that justice is served and the Chicago River is fully protected.”

Friends of the Chicago River and Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club are represented by Attorney Albert Ettinger and the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic.

Federal law mandates that Trump Tower do extensive studies of Chicago River fish populations and the impact of the building’s water intake system. Trump Tower failed to file any study results to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Attorney General Madigan said. Such cooling water intake structures can pull large amounts of fish into building cooling systems. Fish and other aquatic life can also get trapped against intake screens. The suit filed by Madigan alleges that Trump Tower dumps millions of gallons of heated water daily into the Chicago River without a valid permit.

Frisbie noted that her organization, in partnership with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, has spent nearly $1 million on fish habitat projects in the last five years including along the Main Stem of the Chicago River. Since 2014 they’ve released 277,000 Illinois native channel catfish and 8,000 Illinois native northern pike into the Chicago River system at a cost of $484,000.

About Friends of the Chicago River

Friends of the Chicago River is the only organization solely dedicated to the Chicago River. Since 1979, Friends has been working to improve the health of the Chicago River system for the benefit of people, plants and animals; and by doing so, has laid the foundation for the river to be a beautiful, continuous, and easily accessible corridor of open space in the Chicago region. For more information, visit http://www.chicagoriver.

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit http://www.illinois.sierraclub.org.

About the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School

The Abrams Environmental Law Clinic works to solve some of our region’s and country’s most pressing environmental problems. On behalf of clients, the Clinic challenges those who pollute illegally, fights for stricter permits, advocates for changes to regulations and laws, holds environmental agencies accountable, and develops innovative approaches for improving the environment.  For more information, visit https://www.law.uchicago.edu/clinic

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Sierra Club Announces General Assembly Endorsements, Launches Climate Voter Contact Campaign to Elect 27 New Environmental Champions to Springfield

For Immediate Release: Monday, August 20th, 2018
Contact: Kady McFadden, kady.mcfadden@sierraclub.org, (630) 747-0915


Chicago – The Illinois Sierra Club today announced its endorsements in races for the Illinois General Assembly and its largest ever voter contact campaign to elect 27 new environmentalists to state legislative districts. Sierra Club’s full list of endorsements can be found here.

“With Donald Trump taking apart our nation’s environmental protections and trying to move America backward out of the clean energy economy, state and local leaders must lead the way,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter.  “These are leaders who want to protect our drinking water, open spaces, and move Illinois to 100% clean energy. We are proud to recommend them to Illinois voters.”

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

“Ever since Trump began his assault on America’s environmental protections, thousands of Illinoisans have become energized to resist those attacks and move Illinois towards environmental justice, safe and clean water, open spaces we can all enjoy, and a 100% clean energy future,” said Barbara Hill, Political Chair for the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter.

Sierra Club has placed 15 paid organizers across these key districts to activate the organization’s 100,000 members and supporters across Illinois to volunteer and vote for these candidates. By Election Day, Sierra Club aims to have 75,000 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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Benefits of Future Jobs Act Starting to Show

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By Rebecca Judd

The Future Energy Jobs Act is a bright spot for Illinois communities, spurring the development of wind and solar and rapidly creating benefits like cleaner air and less reliance on dirty polluting fossil fuels, economic development, and job creation across the state.  And it’s just getting started…

Thanks to our members and supporters like you, the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) is one of the most significant and historic pieces of clean energy legislation ever to pass the Illinois General Assembly.  It resulted from years of negotiations between utilities, consumer advocates, clean energy businesses, and environmental and environmental justice groups.  It was signed into law on December 7, 2016 and went into effect on June 1, 2017. The law is now in the implementation phase, as some programs have recently started to roll out, and even more programs – including the programs incentivizing the development of on-site, community, and low-income solar projects – will open up later this year and into 2019, bringing even more benefits across the state.

Energy efficiency programs are already underway, and utility-scale wind and solar procurements have already begun, with 8 projects awarded, including 3 wind farms near Clinton, Broadlands, and Macomb, Illinois, along with 1 utility-scale solar farm in Perry County.  

The Illinois Power Agency (IPA) made more moves toward full operation of solar programs under FEJA on August 6, 2018, by launching the Adjustable Block Program website and hiring the Adjustable Block Program Administrator.  The site will be open for vendor registration on November 1, 2018, and the Adjustable Block Program is expected to take project applications from approved vendors on January 15, 2019.  Due to the potential of over 1,000 MW of community solar projects, the IPA has said that it will develop criteria for a lottery. Potential community solar subscribers will eventually have access to view a list of approved community solar projects with contact information. The final Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan as ordered by the Illinois Commerce Commission has also been released.

Job training programs authorized under FEJA also underway, including the “Solar Training Pipeline Program,” which trains solar installers who are from low-income and environmental justice communities, alumni of the Illinois foster care system, and returning citizens, with a job placement goal of 2,000 individuals by 2029.  Training providers like Illinois Central College in Peoria, Opportunity Advancement Innovation in Chicago, and Elevate Energy in Chicago and Carbondale have already either started or graduated their first class of between 15 and 30 participants, and several graduates have already been hired or actively being considered for employment.  Vivint Solar recently announced its intention to create over 100 jobs in Illinois, primarily in the residential market, and Sunrun over 80 positions. Ranger Power, developer of the utility-scale solar farm in southern Perry County, expects to create around 200 jobs in construction.

These numbers will only continue to increase as more solar and wind systems are awarded incentives under FEJA and break ground in 2019 and beyond.  The benefits of FEJA are just getting started, bringing cleaner air, lower utility bills, economic development, job creation, tax base growth, and other benefits to communities all over the State. 

Sierra Club, Senator Durbin endorse Kwame Raoul for Attorney General

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 17, 2018

Durbin, Sierra Club endorse Raoul for attorney general to fight federal threats to environment

CHICAGO – Today, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and the Sierra Club Illinois Chapter announced their support for Kwame Raoul, Democratic candidate for attorney general, as they sounded the alarm on federal environmental protection rollbacks and emphasized the importance of the attorney general’s role.

“I am joining with the Sierra Club to endorse Kwame because we are in a moment where the willingness of our elected officials to stand up for environmental protections will determine whether we pass on a healthier planet to future generations or lose the progress we’ve made,” said Senator Durbin. “Now more than ever we need an attorney general who will act as a check on the Trump administration and stand up for environmentalprotections. Kwame has a proven record in this fight, and I know he’s ready to step up and protect Illinoisans as attorney general.”

“It is vital that Illinois’ next attorney general protect our health and our communities from corporations who violate our environmental laws,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter. “With Donald Trump and his cronies rolling back protections for our water and air, it has never been more important that Illinois’ top law enforcement officer put the health of our communities first. Kwame Raoul has a track record of fighting for clean energy, environmental justice, and the rights of citizens to protect themselves from pollution, and he will stand up to challenge the Trump administration’s illegal attempts to roll back vital protections.”

“As attorney general, I will aggressively and fairly enforce environmental laws and stand strong for state-level standards to protect Illinoisans’ air, water and health, no matter what the federal government does,” said state Senator Raoul. “I’m honored to have the endorsement of Senator Durbin and the Sierra Club: a public servant and an organization that stand up to Donald Trump every day, fighting for our natural resources and the rule of law.”

Raoul has sponsored legislation that would combat federal rollbacks by requiring state agencies to maintain environmental standards as strict as the federal government’s were on the day before Trump’s inauguration. He has worked to ensure that residents whose health, property and quality of life may be harmed by environmental permitting decisions have a voice in the process. He also helped create the Commission on Environmental Justice and supported renewable energy procurement goals, testing school water fountains for lead and banning plastic microbeads, which threaten wildlife in the Great Lakes.

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Kwame Raoul was born in Chicago to Haitian immigrants. In 2004, he was appointed to fill the State Senate seat left by Barack Obama. He’s been a leading voice for a woman’s right to choose, criminal justice reform, and equal rights. As a cancer survivor and son of a community physician, Kwame knows firsthand the importance of access to affordable, quality healthcare. And as a father of two children, Kwame will crack down on violent criminals and sexual predators, and make sure victims get the support they need.

Paid for by Sierra Club Illinois PAC. A copy of our report filed with the State Board of Elections is (or will be) available on the Board’s official website (www.elections.il.gov) or for purchase from the State Board of Elections, Springfield, IL

Celebrate Illinois Pollinator Week with Sierra Club!

Teams of Sierrans throughout Illinois have been as busy as bees working to improve habitat for all pollinator- bees, birds and butterflies. DuPage Monarch Project, led by the River Prairie Group of the Sierra Club, asked Governor Rauner to name June 18-24 as Illinois Pollinator Week and he followed through! As we celebrate pollinators this week, take time to learn how you can help and how you can engage with other Sierra Club members in this important conservation work.

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Download English, Spanish and Polish versions of this poster at the end of this post.

Monarch butterflies and other important pollinators are in decline. The causes range from habitat loss, to pesticides, to climate change. Monarch butterfly populations have declined by as much as 90 percent over the last two decades.

Because Illinois is a critical migration flyway for monarch butterflies it has been designated as a high priority area for monarch conservation in strategies developed both by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. And, the monarch butterfly, Illinois’ state insect, was identified as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the most recent Illinois Wildlife Action Plan.

The Illinois Chapter Sierra Club’s Pollinator Campaign formed The Monarch Team–volunteers who works at the Group level to make the Prairie State better for monarchs, which in turn helps all of our valuable pollinators. The Team:

  • Advocates for critical Monarch habitat with new public lands like the Hackmatack and Kankakee National Wildlife Refuges, and continuing restoration at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and other sites.
  • Works with partner organizations to develop policies to reduce, regulate and/or eliminate the use of toxic pesticides that are lethal to pollinators and the plants they depend on.
  • Collaborates on statewide policy to increase pollinator habitat on public and private land from farmland to urban areas to roadside rights of way.
  • Hosts and/or participates at educational events and festivals that promote planting native species, especially milkweeds, in yards, farms, rights of way, and other places available to support monarchs.

You can keep track of Illinois Sierra Club pollinator activities by checking out our calendar and by becoming a member of our Monarch Team’s Facebook group. Please feel free to add pollinator info and events to the group page. Mark your calendars for these Upcoming Events:

Help out Illinois Monarchs by Purchasing a License Plate Decal

Illinois residents can help out monarchs by signing up to purchase a license plate with a new monarch butterfly decal! All of the funds received will go to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to support roadside monarch habitat throughout our state and help to save this magnificent species. Instructions can be found in this earlier post. We need 2000 Illinoisans to sign up by September for the Secretary of State to create the decal.

History of Illinois Chapter Sierra Club’s Pollinator Campaign

  • Legislative initiatives
    • HB2568 — passed bill designating milkweed as Illinois State Wildflower
    • HB685 — passed bill to eliminate milkweed from being listed on municipal and county noxious weed lists.
  • Team activities:
    • All across the state Monarch Team volunteers have helped establish pollinator plantings, wayside gardens, and demonstration plots at county forest preserves, city parks and open spaces, national wildlife refuges, and a Studio Gang rooftop.
    • Worked with several park districts and a cities to sign resolutions to create and protect pollinator habitat.
    • Worked to get Mayor’s Monarch Pledges signed.
    • Volunteers have staffed tables at numerous Earth Day events and other festivals where they talked to the public and handed out information about monarchs and pollinators, handed out seed packets that they had assembled and labeled, setup coloring activity stations for kids, etc.
    • Groups have held educational presentations, while individual members have attended various pollinator workshops and webinars.

Pollinator Protection work underway throughout Illinois

River Prairie Group Spearheaded by the River Prairie Group, the DuPage Monarch Project (DMP) was formed in 2015 as a collaboration of four local environmental organizations for the purpose of advocating for monarch friendly communities.  Monarch friendly communities encourage landscaping for habitat, limiting the usage of insecticides and educating their residents about the challenges facing monarchs and pollinators. DMP’s outreach has primarily been through educational programs, tabling, and urging municipal entities to sign monarch resolutions. In 2018-

  • DMP hosted its third annual program titled Beyond Monarchs: Preserving Endangered Butterflies, Bees and Dragonflies.
  • DMP organized a pollinator themed art exhibit, The Art of Pollinators that ran for the month of May at Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook.  The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s annual native plant sale was held at the same location on May 11 and 12, offering plant sale browsers the opportunity to experience many of the pollinators that rely on native species.  The call for art was well received with nearly a 100 entries. It was a multi-media event with photographs, watercolors and several three-dimensional entries including an altered book, mixed media pieces and artful furniture. Sound artist John Nichols III contributed an insect soundscape of cricket chirps, buzzing bees, beetle clicks and whirring hummingbirds created from recordings collected over the past ten years.
  • DMP is offering a half-day symposium on October 17th on creating attractive, pollinator-friendly landscapes in a variety of settings, parks, municipal lands, homeowners association’s common grounds, corporate campuses and golf courses.

Chicago Group The group’s second annual pollinator seed packet distribution is underway.  We packaged 1,000 packets with native purple coneflower & black eyed susan seeds, and we will be handing them out at various farmers markets and Sierra Club sponsored events.  Packets are available at the Sierra Club’s Chicago office for people to pick up.

Shawnee Group The group’s pollinator project in Carbondale was put on hold after learning that the Splash Park where our project was located is heavily sprayed by Jackson County Mosquito Abatement. Because of the potential lethal consequences to all insects caused by mosquito abatement spraying the group voted not to continue attracting pollinators with more native plants until we could find a solution. The group is communicating with the Carbondale Sustainability Council in hopes they can influence  policies and change to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) recommended by the Xerces organization or find other pollinator insect friendly management techniques.

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Kathy Belletire, leader of the Shawnee Group’s Monarch Team, created this monarch-themed card that the group sold at their spring native plant sale.

The group participated in the “People and Pollinators” event sponsored by the Field Museum and held on the SIU campus on June 5th to learn to use mapping protocols to identify pollinator habitat potential in urban areas. Carbondale, Lincoln and Peoria are three cities in Illinois chosen as pilot project locations.  Volunteers will help the Giant City State Park Visitor Center’s pollinator garden by labeling their plants and enlarging their garden. They don’t spray there or at the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge’s pollinator garden and prairie restoration project where the group also volunteers weekly.

Woods & Wetlands Group The group’s Monarch Campaign, co-chaired by Dale Duda and Cindy Blue, focuses on advocating for local community actions to preserve, protect and restore monarch habitat. The group continues to advocate for mayors to sign the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge and commit to a minimum three actions to help monarchs. Several mayors in the group’s territory have signed. See all the Illinois and national signatories online.

Woods & Wetlands is also working with libraries to adopt an education program, developed by the group, to reinforce knowledge about the monarch butterfly and the importance of milkweed to its life cycle.

Blackhawk Group Sierrans are part of the Hackmatack Monarch Coalition that is active in McHenry County. This coalition of over 20 member organizations is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on improving pollinator habitat and educating citizens on what they can do to help out pollinators. The coalition will host its 4th annual Monarch Family Fun Fair on August 12. The group has also planted pollinator plants supplied by the USFWS into existing roadside prairies and established new gardens at sites throughout the county, including at the McHenry County fairgrounds. In the fall, a second planting will be the first phase of establishment of a buffer along Silver Creek which runs through fairgrounds.

Download Illinois Pollinator Week posters: English Polish Spanish

Community Dialogue Training: IL’s Clean Energy Future

By: Caroline Wooten

Community dialogues can be a powerful tool for shaping inclusive and winning environmental campaigns.

Join us to learn how to plan and facilitate a community dialogue in your own community! These dialogues can help shape local priorities, and will also help us as we shape state-level policy goals for clean energy.

A community dialogue involves gathering 3-15 individuals from your community, and engaging in an intentional group conversation on a given issue. By engaging people in discussion about their values and experiences, their community’s needs and opportunities, and their priorities on a given policy issue, we can shape campaigns that are grounded in local needs and serve people first.

Join the training that works best for you:

Thursday, June 21, 6:30 pm-9 pm
@ Illinois Sierra Club – 70 E Lake St Suite 1500, Chicago, IL 60601
RSVP here
Dinner Provided

Saturday, June 23, 10 am- 4 pm (This training is a day-long Ready for 100 leadership training. One section of the agenda will focus on community dialogues)
@ First Presbyterian Church – 400 Alby St, Alton, IL 62002
RSVP here
Breakfast and lunch provided

Monday, June 25, 6 pm-8:30 pm
@ Spring Valley Nature Center – 1111 E Schaumburg Rd, Schaumburg, IL 60194
RSVP here
Dinner Provided

Thursday, June 28, 6:30-9 pm
@ 3S501 Landon, Warrenville, IL 60555
RSVP here
Dinner Provided

Illinois EPA to Host Public Outreach Sessions on Volkswagen Settlement Spending Plan

By: Rebecca Judd

In February, the Illinois EPA released its Draft Mitigation Plan (Draft Plan) on how to spend the state’s $108 million allocation from the Volkswagen emissions cheating settlement fund.  The state failed to have public meetings and hearings to decide the best way to spend the money before issuing the Draft Plan.  However, in response to the public outcry over the lack of public engagement, along with advocacy from Sierra Club chapter, volunteers, and supporters, the Illinois EPA has announced it will now host three public outreach sessions before issuing the Final Plan in June:

Wednesday, May 23, 2018, 6-8PM

Illinois EPA Headquarters (North Entrance), Sangamo Conference Room
1000 East Converse
Springfield, IL
Facebook RSVP link

Thursday, May 24, 2018, 6-8PM
St. Paul Baptist Church
1500 Bond Avenue
East St. Louis, IL
Facebook RSVP link

Wednesday, May 30, 2018, 6-8PM
James R. Thompson Center Auditorium
100 West Randolph
Chicago, IL
Facebook RSVP link

We urge you to attend one of these sessions and voice your support for a stronger plan that maximizes pollution reduction and public health benefits through robust investment in Electric Vehicles, EV charging infrastructure, and public transit electrification, especially in economically disadvantaged and environmental justice communities.

As outlined in the Draft Plan, the Illinois EPA proposes to allocate the $108 million as follows:

  1. up to 20 percent ($21.7 million) toward on-road vehicles, such as upgrading or replacing trucks and buses
  2. up to 65 percent ($70.6 million) toward off-road projects, such as upgrading or replacing locomotive engines, ferries, and tugboats
  3. up to 10 percent ($10.8 million) toward replacing diesel school buses with electric buses
  4. up to 5 percent ($5.4 million) toward administrative expenditures

The settlement funds provide an opportunity to offset more than 40,000 tons of nitrogen oxide pollution from diesel exhaust engines in VW vehicles.  In September 2015, the EPA uncovered illegal devices that allowed 2.0-liter diesel engines or TDI vehicles made by Volkswagen and its Audi and Porsche luxury brands to burn clean diesel in testing labs, only to hit the roads and emit up to 40 times the nitrogen oxide pollutants allowed in the United States.  Numerous studies have shown that exposure to dangerous amounts of diesel pollution can cause respiratory diseases and worsen existing conditions such as asthma. Diesel exhaust from buses poses a particular public health risk, since buses primarily travel where there are lot of people, including in densely-crowded areas of cities, busy roads, and near schools.  In Illinois, nearly one of every eight children live with asthma, but in communities of color, this number is even higher.

Therefore, it is critical that Illinois’ plan to spend the $108 million Volkswagen settlement funds is made stronger and more robustly allocated toward all-electric projects that will reduce air pollution and move Illinois towards a carbon-free transportation sector.  The VW mitigation agreement allows states to aside up to 15% of funds for light-duty Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure. Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, and Minnesota have proposed dedicating the full 15% for EV infrastructure, but Illinois EPA has dedicated no funds for this vital purpose.  The state’s draft spending plan also focuses heavily on switching out older, dirty diesel engines for newer diesel engines, which will reduce exhaust emissions but still continue our reliance on dirty polluting fossil fuels like diesel. The singular highlight of the draft plan is the 10 percent allocation for all-electric school buses, which is a significant step to protecting our children across Illinois.  We strongly favor this part of the plan, but urge that these buses are kept electric and not propane or diesel.

Sierra Club Illinois hopes for strong turnout at these public outreach sessions, so that we can loudly send the message to IEPA that Illinois needs a stronger plan that allocates more funds toward clean, electric transportation projects and not get left behind from all the economic, environmental, and public health benefits that come from investing in a clean transportation future.  The maximum 15% of the VW funds should be dedicated to light-duty EV charging infrastructure, along with additional investment into more electric vehicles and buses. By committing more of these funds toward all-electric projects and public transit electrification, the state can jumpstart the EV market, reduce electricity bills due to downward pressure on rates, and improve air quality for all Illinoisians.