Pruitt Strikes Out on Chicago Trip

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s trip to Chicago today failed to ease grave concerns about the potential impact of unprecedented budget cuts and the Agency’s direction under his leadership.

Apparently Pruitt had time to take in a ball game this afternoon at Wrigley Field, but no time or interest in meeting with employees at the EPA Region 5 office in Chicago. He also ignored requests to meet with community groups concerned about lead contamination in the East Chicago housing project he drove past.
With rumors swirling that the EPA may completely close the regional office here, proposed devastating cuts, and Pruitt’s history of attacking the agency he now leads, it would have been a very good time to meet with employees and assure them that their jobs, and the mission of the EPA, are safe.  A group of EPA workers invited Pruitt to lunch, but received no response. They gathered at the regional headquarters in case he showed up, but were met with an empty chair.
IMG_1295

Region 5 EPA workers had hoped to meet with Administrator Pruitt during his Chicago visit

If Pruitt had taken the time to meet the women and men of EPA’s regional office here, he would have found dedicated professionals who have made it their life’s work to protect us all, but who now are worried about whether they will be able to do their jobs.  Pruitt could learn a lot about the great work EPA has done in our region to clean up the Great Lakes, improve our air quality, encourage clean energy, and created good jobs in clean technologies, and how President Trump’s policies and budget proposal threaten to decimate the EPA and the communities here who depend on it. Instead, he took the afternoon off and headed to Wrigley.
You can’t beat a day at the ballpark, but Scott Pruitt is striking out when it comes to his job of keeping Americans safe from pollution.
For more on Pruitt’s adventures in our area today, see this summary.

Environmental Groups Sue Illinois DNR over Wasteful Withdrawals of Lake Michigan Water

Last week, environmental protection groups filed a lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to overturn a decision permitting additional billions of gallons of Lake Michigan water to be used to improve conditions in the Chicago River system during periods of poor water quality.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) applied in 2014 to withdraw additional Lake Michigan water. The Alliance for the Great Lakes, Illinois Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Openlands opposed the application, arguing that water conservation practices could be used to more efficiently manage the resource and keep more water in the lake while still protecting water quality in the Chicago River system. IDNR’s Director Wayne Rosenthal issued a decision in March allowing an additional 420 billion gallons of water to be diverted from Lake Michigan through the year 2030. The groups are now challenging that decision in an effort to reduce the amount of Lake Michigan water diverted.

In response, Illinois Sierra Club’s Clean Water Program Director Dr. Cindy Skrukrud released the following statement:

“IDNR issued their decision to allow a drastic increase to the amount of water diverted from Lake Michigan after failing to properly consider whether there are alternatives to maintain sanitary conditions in the Chicago River without using this wasteful amount of water. Everybody wants the Chicago River to be as clean as possible, but IDNR refused to even think about whether that could be done using common-sense solutions like green infrastructure. We are bringing suit in Cook County Circuit Court to assure that Great Lakes water is not wasted.

“Under the Great Lakes Compact, all Great Lakes states are required to evaluate ways to conserve their use of lake water. We recommended that the IDNR require studies on how improved treatment at wastewater plants could reduce pollution in Chicago waterways and reduce the need for Lake Michigan water to flush pollutants out of the system. We also called for studies on how green infrastructure practices could be deployed to reduce pollution from stormwater and combined sewer overflows. In fact, MWRD is already working to reduce pollution to Chicago waterways by improving treatment of its wastewater and implementing green infrastructure practices. Their current measures and expansion of these efforts should be factored into the determination of the need for Lake Michigan water withdrawals over the next decade. IDNR ignored these developments and our recommendations and has not required any study of methods to reduce use of the water. Their decision to allow use of Great Lakes water without even considering conservation practices flies in the face of the Compact and sets a bad precedent for future uses of Lake Michigan water.

“As the Trump Administration moves to cut the flow of vital funding to the Great Lakes, Governor Rauner’s IDNR is also loosening controls on diversions of water from Lake Michigan. Now, more than ever, we need states to do their part to stand up and protect our Great Lakes resource, not waste it.

“We hope the Court will reverse IDNR’s decision and require proper consideration of conservation practices to reduce the use of Lake Michigan water and protect this precious resource.”

Read the Complaint, Alliance for the Great Lakes et al. v. IDNR et al., 2017-CH-05445 (4.14.17)

Read more about the Great Lakes Compact here.

Chicago Announces All Public Buildings Will Be Powered With 100% Clean Energy

Sierra Club Illinois Chapter staff and volunteers joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel last week to announce that the Windy City would transition all of its municipal buildings and operations to 100% clean, renewable energy. That currently makes Chicago’s the largest fleet of public buildings in the country to commit to clean energy. 

RF100-ChicagoCongrats-02

This victory would not have been possible without the work of so many Sierra Club volunteers and partners who worked for years to push Chicago to move beyond dirty coal and retire the notorious Fisk and Crawford coal plants. Now, Chicago takes the next step.

“Leadership on clean energy and climate change is not coming from Washington—quite the opposite. It has never been more important that local communities step up where national leaders step back. Chicago is pushing forward. We won’t let Donald Trump’s attempts to enrich his fossil-fuel-industry cronies deter us here in Chicago,” said Tony Fuller, Sierra Club Chicago Group Co-Chair.

By committing to power every city, park, public school, city college, and public housing building with 100% clean, renewable energy, Chicago is helping to bring the benefits of the clean energy economy to every neighborhood in the city.

100% clean energy means more than just wind and solar projects for Chicago. This commitment opens doors to new economic opportunities in every Chicago neighborhood—especially where they are needed most. A job on a solar energy project can mean new skills and a new career pathway for a Chicagoan who needs it most. Scaled citywide, these projects can help thousands of individuals and communities reap the benefits of a rapidly growing global economic sector.

Working with community groups and labor unions is critical to our efforts. Groups like Little Village Environmental Justice Organization are ensuring that these opportunities reach everyone. Our brothers and sisters at IBEW are actively preparing workers for the good-paying jobs that will be created.

Chicago’s commitment to 100% clean energy also will bring cleaner air to a city where too many residents struggle with asthma and other respiratory diseases. Pollution from coal plants near and far contributes to smog and soot levels that can send kids to the emergency room just for playing outside. With this commitment to clean energy, Chicago is putting its money where our lungs are.

IMG_0164.JPG

Sierra Club Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin with Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the Shedd Aquarium for the City’s announcement of its pledge to move to 100% clean energy for all city buildings.

Clean energy is healthier for the city’s pocketbook, too. Although wind and solar projects require upfront investment, once built, their fuel sources are free. Chicago taxpayers will be protected from spikes in the prices of conventional fuels, saving a huge amount of money in the long run.

Moving to 100% clean energy is clearly a winner for our future, but unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. Our President, Donald Trump, seems intent on doing everything in his power to reverse the progress we have made as a country to act on climate change and move to clean energy. He has essentially erased America’s Clean Power Plan, and handed the keys to the EPA to those who would take it apart.

We all dream of the day when all of our power will come from clean, safe, renewable energy. And thanks to advances in technology and decreasing costs, it’s time to stop dreaming, and begin making that 100% clean energy vision a reality. This announcement is a big step as Chicago starts building toward that goal for our community, and we will all be healthier, wealthier, and happier for it.

We applaud the City of Chicago for their leadership in this bold commitment, we look forward to working with the people of Chicago to show the world that we are indeed Ready for 100% clean energy.

 

Join Our Effort to Get All of Chicago Ready For 100% Clean Energy!

Volunteer: To learn more and join the team Sign up here

Join our upcoming events:

 

  • Rogers Park Solar Forum: Thursday, April 20, 7 p.m. Sullivan High School, 6631 N Bosworth Ave
  • Chicago March for Science: Saturday, April 22, 10 a.m., Rally at Congress Pkwy

  • Sierra Club Chicago at Science in Chicago Expo: Noon to 3 p.m., Field Museum
  • People’s Climate March: Saturday, April 29, Noon, Federal Plaza
  • Sierra Club New Volunteer Open House: Tuesday, June 6, 6 p.m., 70 E. Lake St. RSVP here

People’s Climate Marches-Get on a bus in Illinois to DC or find an event near you!

On April 29–the 100th day of Trump’s Presidency–thousands will rally in DC, and thousands more will take the streets across the country to demand climate justice as part of the People’s Climate Movement.

Here in Illinois, you can jump on a bus to DC, or join a rally near you. We need you in the streets! Check out a list of statewide opportunities.
Part 1: Buses to DC
Part 2: Events in + near Illinois

Get on a bus to DC!

Chicago Buses:

  • Bus 1:
    Departs Chicago: Friday, April 28th at 7:00PM from (565 W. Adam St. Chicago, IL 60661).
    Arrives back in Chicago: Sunday, April 30 @ 6 am
    Follow this link to purchase tickets or donate to help cover a seat for scholarship riders.
    Questions? Contact JC Kibbey: jckibbey@ucsusa.org
  • Bus 2:
    Departs Chicago: Friday, April 28th at 9:00 AM from (70 E. Lake St., Suite 920 Chicago, IL 60601).
    Arrives back in Chicago: Sunday, April 30 @ 6 pm
    Follow this link to purchase tickets.
    Questions? Contact Rev Vance: revvance@faithinplace.org

NW Cook County Bus:
Departs Elk Grove Village: Friday April 28th at 7:00 PM from (Ned Brown Preserve at Grove 25 Elk Grove Village, IL 60007–Free, secure parking available at the Forest Preserve!).
Arrives back in Elk Grove Village: Sunday, April 30 @ 6 am
Follow this link to purchase tickets or donate to help cover a seat for scholarship riders.
Questions? Contact Tim Milburn: logintim@gmail.com

Central IL Bus:
Central IL: Peoria, Bloomington, Champaign. BUS IS FULL! Please consider donating $ here to help cover a seat for scholarship riders.
Questions? Contact Elizabeth Scrafford: elizabeth.scrafford@sierraclub.org

Sister Marches in or near Illinois:

PEOPLE’S CLIMATE MARCH – CHICAGO
April 29, 2017 @ Noon
Federal Plaza (230 S Dearborn)
March for our climate + our communities.
Rally @ Federal Plaza, then march to the Trump Tower
Contact: caroline.wooten@sierraclub.org
Share on Facebook
RSVP here

Coming from Lake County?
Clean Power Lake County is sponsoring two buses from Waukegan to the Chicago Climate March leaving at 8 am Saturday, April 29 and returning at 5 pm for $20 and hardship price $10.
Buses will leave from Christ Episcopal Church, 410 W. Grand Ave. in Waukegan.
Reserve your seat on the bus here.

NW Indiana:
People’s Climate March: Northwest Indiana
April 29, 2017 • 11:00 AM
Main Square Park
3000 Highway Ave, Highland 46322
Highland, IN

Rockford:
Earth Day March for Science & Climate
Rockford
April 22, 2017
4:00 PM Joe Marino Park
100 N. Water Street
Rockford, IL 61107
Facebook Event

Galesburg:
People’s Climate March: Knox County
April 29, 2017 • 12:30 PM
Public Square
29 Public Square
Galesburg, IL 61401

Quad Cities:
Quad Cities People’s Climate March
April 29, 2017 noon- 2 pm
Modern Woodman Park, Davenport, Ia• 209 S Gaines Street, Davenport, IA 52802
Questions: eagleviewgroupsc@gmail.com
RSVP here
Facebook Event

Champaign:
Champaign-Urbana Rallies for our Earth
April 29, 2017
2:00 PM
West Side Park
400 W University Ave
Champaign, IL 61820
RSVP here
Questions? Contact Stuart Levy stuartnlevy@gmail.com
Facebook Event

St Louis:
Saint Louis People’s Climate March
April 29, 2017 • 12:00 PM
Luther Ely Smith Square
20 N 4th St
Saint Louis, MO
Facebook Event

Carbondale:
Peoples Climate March of Southern Illinois
April 29, 2017 • 12:30 PM
Gaia House
913 S. Illinois Ave.Carbondale, IL 62901
Questions: jane.cogie@gmail.com
RSVP here
Facebook event

Announcing: 2017 Summer Organizing Training

NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS:

Sierra Club Illinois Chapter 2017 Summer Organizing Program

EPA

Are you ready for a summer of #resistance boot camp? The Sierra Club Illinois Chapter is seeking motivated students committed to developing their knowledge and skills to get trained to help to build a stronger and more just climate movement. 

About the program

The summer organizing program will consist of one week of environmental advocacy and organizer training June 12 – June 16th. During this training, students will learn from experienced environmental advocates, organizers, and leaders across the Illinois environmental movement. The training will take place at the Sierra Club Illinois headquarters in Chicago.

Upon competition of the weeklong training, participants are required to create and implement a summer organizing plan over the following eight weeks (June 17 – Aug 12). During these weeks, students will receive hands-on training with local Sierra Club staff and volunteer leaders. This work will consist of, but is not limited to, attending meetings of environmental and social justice organizations, organizing events, leading phone banks, working on social media, gathering petitions, canvassing. You do not have to be located in Chicago to participate in the summer organizing program.

To Apply

Submit a resume, cover letter, and answers to the below questions to kady.mcfadden@sierraclub.org by May 1st, 2017. Final applicants will participate in a phone interview before being accepted into the program.

 

Application Questions

  1. Why do you want to participate in the summer organizing program?
  2. What is the greatest opportunity facing the environmental community currently?
  3. Please indicate if you have skills or interest in any of the following: web design, social media, communications, graphic design, fundraising, clean water, clean energy, pollinators, lands protection, other.

Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 2.30.09 PM

Trump’s Great Leap Backward on Climate: Time for Illinois to Lead

Chicago, IL – Today, President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order to begin the process of repealing several Obama-era actions tackling the climate crisis and protecting clean air and water, including steps to begin the process of dismantling the Clean Power Plan, roll back Oil and Gas New Source Performance Standards, rescind NEPA guidance that directs agencies to account for the climate crisis, and end efforts to reform the broken federal coal leasing program.

The Clean Power Plan protects the health of Illinois families and communities by curbing dangerous carbon pollution and reducing other toxic pollutants like mercury, nitrous oxide, and sulfur dioxide.

The EPA has estimated that, by 2030, the Clean Power Plan would prevent 150,000 asthma attacks and up to 6,600 premature deaths annually, providing between $55 billion to $93 billion of benefits per year. These climate and health benefits far outweigh the estimated annual costs of the plan, which are only $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion in 2030.

EPA also projects that in 2030 when the plan is fully implemented, electricity bills would be roughly 8 percent lower than they would been without the actions in state plans. That would save Americans about $8 on an average monthly residential electricity bill.

Trump’s announcement comes on the same day of the release of the 2016 Solar Jobs Census, which shows continued growth in solar employment in Illinois.

 

In Response, Jack Darin, Illinois Chapter Director, Released the Following Statement:

“President Trump is proposing a great leap backward, hoping to reverse the progress we are making in Illinois and the United States toward clean energy for all, but it won’t be that easy.

“Today’s action may be just what oil and coal corporations ordered, but it flies in the face of science, the law, and the growing move toward clean energy in our economy and in states like Illinois. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that carbon pollution threatens our health and our planet, and the USEPA is required to reduce it. Trump can repeal the Clean Power Plan, but he is legally obligated to replace it.

“Illinois is on course to become a national leader in wind power, solar energy, and conservation programs, and we should not let President Trump’s crusade against science and our legal and moral obligation to act on climate change determine our future. Today Trump is reversing federal efforts to reduce carbon emissions, but he cannot stop states like Illinois from moving forward with plans of their own. States that continue with efforts to limit carbon pollution will now be more likely to attract the jobs, economic investment, and cleaner air that offered by the steadily growing clean energy economy. In fact, new data released today shows that Illinois’ solar economy is growing, with 3,718 solar jobs at 233 Illinois solar companies, including 235 new jobs added between 2015 and 2016.

“Over the last two years, over 30,000 Illinoisans have contacted Governor Rauner urging him to develop a strong and just plan to reduce carbon emissions in Illinois. Today we renew our call for Governor Rauner to prepare that plan to act on climate change. It has never been more important for Illinois to take the lead on reducing the emissions that are causing the climate change that threatens our health, our agricultural economy, and all of our communities. With so much at risk from climate change, and so much to gain from clean energy solutions, it’s time for Illinois to step up while Trump leaps backward.”

 

Chicago Water Team Hosts Wastewater Tour with Local High School Students

17498562_10208808554672205_7099691739019925066_n
This shows the size of some of the tunnels that carry wastewater to the treatment facilities! 

This afternoon, the Sierra Club’s Chicago Water Team and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) hosted an educational event to share the importance of sustainably managing wastewater with local high school students in celebration of World Water Day. World Water Day is a global day of awareness organized by the United Nations and celebrated throughout the world during the week of March 22 to bring public attention to world water issues and take action to address them. (Read our previous blog post about World Water Day.)

17457943_10208808554872210_8432431980438045496_n

Stage 1 of the McCook Reservoir

A group of 21 students and two teachers from Pritzker College Prep, along with six volunteers from the Chicago Water Team and MWRD Commissioner Josina Morita, traveled to the Mainstream Pumping Station in Hodgkins, southwest of Chicago, for the tour. This facility pumps wastewater collected by the deep tunnel system to send to the Stickney Wastewater Reclamation Plant for treatment. The group also stopped by the McCook Reservoir to see this storage feature that, when completed in 2029, will be able to hold 10 billion gallons and serve an area of 254.7 square miles, and is expected to provide more than $114 million per year in flood damage reduction benefits to 3,100,000 people in 37 communities.

IMG_4730

Students observe a model of the sewer system

The students learned about the importance of treating stormwater and sewage from the city’s combined sewer system before it enters the river in order to protect water quality in Chicago and downstream communities. Despite the current treatment system, untreated sewage and stormwater still enters the waterways when heavy rainfall overwhelms the combined sewer system and causes it to overflow at various outfall points along the river. The McCook and Thornton Reservoirs are intended to reduce the occurrence of these combined sewer overflows and reduce flooding in the areas they serve. While treated wastewater is currently sent downstream and away from the city, MWRD continues to look for ways to turn wastewater into a resource, as evidenced by their new phosphorus recovery system at the Stickney Wastewater Reclamation Plant.

During the tour, we talked about how we can change our behaviors to reduce our waste of water. Taking shorter showers, turning off the faucet when it’s not being used and refraining from doing laundry or washing dishes during rainstorms were some of the action steps shared with the group. Washing one load of laundry takes about 18 gallons of water, which can make a big difference in a city of almost 3 million people. If we reduce our water use, MWRD will be better able to treat the water and prevent sewer overflows into the river.

Here in Chicago, we’re lucky to have one of the greatest freshwater resources- Lake Michigan- which provides drinking water, recreation anClean Water Means Jobs.pngd tourism for the city. Sustainably managing this resource, reducing the waste of water and investing in new ways to protect human health and the environment by protecting our water quality will be increasingly important as the population grows and demand increases. Investments in clean water will bring good, green jobs and economic benefits that will ripple throughout the economy and support our communities and working families. To learn more about the benefits of investing in clean water, read our 2015 report, A Flowing Economy: How Clean Water Infrastructure Investments Support Good Jobs in Chicago and in Illinois.

As the youngest Commissioner on the MWRD Board, Josina told the students that she believes in the power and importance of having young people involved in this work. She encouraged the students to take advantage of internship opportunities with MWRD, which is an agency with every field: engineering, law, accounting, public relations, construction, and more. Talk about some clean water jobs!

We appreciate MWRD’s work to clean our water, and thank them for taking the time to show us how they do it. We also appreciate the enthusiasm of the students for protecting our water resources. With their minds, the future of water is bright- and clean!

17362459_10208808554632204_8915137920238514879_n.jpg

This trip was organized and funded in part by Chicago Inspiring Connections Outdoors, an outreach program of the Sierra Club with a mission of getting young people outdoors to explore, enjoy, and protect the environment. If you’d like to learn more about the program or apply to become a volunteer, please visit our website.

Please visit the Chicago Water Team’s website to learn more about the team’s efforts to improve the waterways of the Chicago area or to join the team. And join us on April 22 for a clean-up at Montrose Beach in celebration of Earth Day! Learn more and register here