Author Archives: jackdarin

VICTORY! Illinois has a budget, and it includes Solar For All Funds

The unprecedented lack of a state budget caused serious harm across Illinois, and especially in disadvantaged communities.  We’re thrilled that the State of Illinois has a budget at long last, and we can begin to repair that harm and provide real opportunities for people who need it most in the clean energy economy through the Illinois Solar For All program.

It almost didn’t happen that way. Last week, Governor Rauner proposed a budget that could have eliminated all of the funding for Illinois Solar For All, and Sierra Club sprang into action. More than 1,800 Sierra Club members and supporters reached out to their legislators in Springfield before and during the 4th of July holiday, and it had an impact. Legislators rejected Rauner’s proposal, and approved a new proposal that did not sweep any funds away from Illinois Solar For All.

Sierra Club joined this effort in support of environmental justice partners in the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, especially the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and Faith in Place, who envisioned the Illinois Solar For All program and are now working to create the new statewide training programs that will begin later this year.  Sierra Club volunteers lobbied their state legislators all spring to prepare for this showdown, including in-district visits to lawmakers’ offices and many calls; and, nearly 50 making the trip to Springfield for a lobby day in April to protect the funds.

The new Illinois Solar For All program is a key component of the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA). The program will train and employ residents of low income communities, citizens returning from the criminal justice system, and foster care graduates in the clean energy industry that is soon to take off in Illinois thanks to the FEJA.  

With everything Trump is doing to make America dependent on fossil fuels again, it is essential that Illinois chart a course for 100% clean energy future that includes everyone.  The Illinois Solar For All program is part of a great start, and thanks to your action and the great work of our partners in the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, we are on course for a brighter future.

 

Asian Carp Advance On Lake Michigan; Trump Halts Project to Stop Them, Threatens To Cut Off All Great Lakes Funds

Yesterday an invasive adult silver carp was caught within nine miles of Lake Michigan in the Calumet River. The 8-pound fish was captured in a gill net by a commercial fisherman working for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC) as part of their seasonal intensive monitoring program looking for this invasive species within Chicago’s waterways. This critical work is funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which President Trump has proposed to eliminate all funding for beginning October 1. More information about current carp control efforts is available here.

The Trump Administration has also halted efforts to upgrade the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, downstream of the electric barriers, to prevent the movement of Asian carp upstream. The Army Corps of Engineers was set to release the study for public review in late February when the White House blocked its release.

Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter Clean Water Program Director Cindy Skrukrud released this statement:

“The capture of a silver carp past the electric barrier and just 9 miles from Lake Michigan is a potent reminder of how the Trump Administration is failing to address the huge problem that aquatic invasive species pose to the Great Lakes. While alien invaders are headed towards Lake Michigan, Trump and his team are halting projects to keep them out and dismantling Great Lakes protection programs. It is urgent that Governor Rauner and our entire Congressional delegation call on President Trump to release the Brandon Road Lock and Dam study that his administration is holding hostage, and demand that he commit to fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. If Trump is allowed by Congress to cut off all Great Lakes funding October 1, Illinois DNR will not be able to continue the critical work underway right now to catch and control these dangerous invaders.”

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Want to take action? Here’s how you can help:

Sign the Great Lakes Protection Pledge and tell your Member of Congress to do the same

Tell your Members of Congress to support legislation to stop Asian carp

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Silver carp captured in the Illinois Waterway on June 22, 2017 below T.J. O’Brien Lock and Dam.
Image courtesy of Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
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The Brandon Road Lock and Dam upgrade would increase protection for Lake Michigan

 

Statement on Trump EPA Budget Proposal

 

President Trump released his proposed FY 2018 federal budget today.  Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin released this statement about the proposed budget for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

“President Trump’s proposed budget for the EPA is a plan only polluters could love.  Trump wants to slash funding for enforcing clean air and water laws, shut down the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Office of Environmental Justice, and penalize states that improve environmental safeguards.
We need to kill this plan before it starts to kill us. The scientists, engineers, and other career professionals are calling this budget a “death sentence.” The Great Lakes region must unite to defend ourselves against this broad attack on our health, our resources, and our communities.  We call on members of Congress, Governors, and local leaders in both parties to pledge their support for our Great Lakes environment, and their opposition to Trump’s attacks on the EPA and our environmental safeguards.  As the Trump Administration steps back from their responsibility to protect our communities, states will need to step up efforts to enforce environmental laws and upgrade standards to ensure we make progress against pollution, not the great leaps backward threatened by Trump’s proposal.”

Why We March On May Day

May Day has historically been a day of action for workers, immigrants, and social justice. This May Day, we are joining these allies for major demonstrations of resistance, and in support of communities that are threatened both by climate change and pollution, and from the Trump administration’s many attacks on our rights.

undefined (1)The environment includes everyone.  Protecting our environment means protecting each other from pollution. The right to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment is a basic human right, and in fact it is guaranteed by Illinois’ constitution. The Sierra Club believes that to protect that right, each and every one of us must be able to safely and securely participate in our democracy, our society, and our economy. That’s why we are proud today and on May Day to stand with our worker, migrant, and social justice allies to protect these rights, which are under attack today in so many ways from Donald Trump and his administration.

We know that President Trump has halted our nation’s primary efforts to act on climate change and grow the clean energy economy.  We know that climate change threatens migrant and communities of color the most, and that the solutions to our environmental challenges can offer new jobs and investments in these communities.  

We support our brothers and sisters in the labor movement to make sure these are good jobs, that pay a living wage, and offer pathways out of poverty for those that need them most.

And so this May Day, we will march together.  Together we will resist the new threats from Washington, and together we will make sure that here in Illinois, we do not turn back, but keep moving forward to a better and brighter future.

Join us Monday, for any or all of a powerful show of force and support for each other against those who would divide us, and jeopardize our future:

1PM – UNION PARK RALLY

2-4PM – MARCH TO DALEY PLAZA

4PM – DALEY PLAZA RALLY

http://www.chimayday.com

#CHICAGOFIGHTSBACK

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.
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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.

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.”

 

Lisa May: A Champion for Waukegan

by Kady McFadden, Deputy Chapter Director

I am proud to share that Sierra Club Illinois today announced our endorsement of Lisa May for Mayor of Waukegan. Residents of Waukegan who have long advocated for cleaning up their lakefront, for a transition from coal to clean energy, and a healthier community to raise their children will have a true champion on their side in Lisa May.

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Waukegan faces many of the issues our country faces – whether we transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, whether we protect our sources of water like Lake Michigan, how we generate just and sustainable economic development in our cities, and how we lift up all community voices in these decisions. Waukegan also faces unique environmental and economic challenges: a painful legacy of industrial pollution, including multiple U.S. EPA Superfund Sites, and a coal fired power plant that has polluted Lake Michigan and our shoreline for decades, hindering lakefront revitalization.

But Waukegan also holds tremendous opportunity and potential.

Lisa May will be the leader that Waukegan needs in becoming the true City of Progress and forging a healthier, more prosperous, clean energy economy for Waukegan. And she will do that in partnership with community members, because she knows one of Waukegan’s greatest strengths is its own residents who believe that this change is possible.

Lisa’s entry into public service grew from her passion for the environment and protecting our natural spaces. After seeing the Waukegan Beach continually littered and in threat of closing, Lisa founded the Friends of Waukegan Beach to engage community members in its protection. Over the last several years she has been an independent voice on the Waukegan City Council who listens thoughtfully to her constituents and represents their interests. When the Clean Power Lake County campaign needed a stronger champion on the City Council to boldly support a transition beyond coal to clean energy, she stepped forward and stood with the residents of Waukegan.

Lisa knows that Waukegan’s future is tied to the health of its Lake Michigan shoreline and that clean energy is one of the greatest opportunities for economic renewal. Sierra Club and many local community partners successfully passed the Future Energy Jobs Bill at the close of 2016 and we now need critical leadership to implement these clean energy programs in Waukegan. Lisa is ready and eager to seize the tremendous potential of the clean energy economy that can attract new businesses, create local jobs, generate consumer savings, and help build a more sustainable image for Waukegan. Waukegan is home to a growing, young workforce including talented students from the College of Lake County and other educational venues who can join clean energy job training programs. With city leadership to court clean energy businesses, these young men and women can find opportunities installing solar panels on rooftops and vacant lands, home insulation and other jobs in sustainable energy development.

At a time of great uncertainty for climate action, Great Lakes protection, and other important priorities at the federal level, we need bold leadership more than ever in cities around the country. Lisa’s commitment to climate leadership and to a transparent, inclusive government that lifts up all residents’ voices, especially minority families, is a breath of fresh air for our democracy. Sierra Club is proud to recommend Lisa May to voters in Waukegan and we hope you will join us in the fight for a healthier, brighter future for the City of Progress.

Sign up to volunteer on the campaign here, or make a donation to Sierra Club Illinois PAC here.

 

*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.