Author Archives: sierraclubillinois

Illinois Senate Passes Legislation to Respond to President Trump’s Threats to Environmental and Worker Protections


CONTACT: Kady McFadden, Sierra Club, (630) 747-0915

Illinois Senate Passes Legislation to Respond to President Trump’s Threats to Environmental and Worker Protections

SB2213 would maintain baseline protections on environment, workers as of Jan 2017

(Springfield) – Today, the Illinois Senate passed Illinois Baseline Protection Act (SB2213). This Act would preserve Illinois’ current environmental and worker safeguards by preventing state and local agencies from weakening Illinois environmental and labor standards below the requirements of the federal statutes and regulations in place as of January 1, 2017. The bill’s chief sponsors are Senator Daniel Biss in the Senate and Representative Juliana Stratton in the House.

Illinois derives many of its current protections for air, water, wildlife, workers’ rights and worker safety from federal statutes and regulations, which set minimum standards that states may meet or exceed. President Trump, his administration, and Congressional leaders have indicated an intent to weaken, repeal, or restrict the implementation of a wide range of environmental, health, and safety laws and regulations. Such federal actions would open the door to lowering the environmental and labor standards that currently protect the people of Illinois.

“The Trump administration’s relentless attacks on environmental protections and workers’ rights have left state governments as the first and sometimes only line of defense for the safety of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the jobsites where we work,” said lead Senate sponsor Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston). “The Senate’s passage of SB2213 today shows how Illinois can step up and lead in this difficult time.”

The legislation now moves to the Illinois House with lead sponsor Representative Juliana Stratton.

“With top EPA officials alluding that there may be a safe level of lead in our children’s drinking water, we must do everything we can to ensure our basic environmental, public health, and worker protections are intact while President Trump is in the White House,” said lead House sponsor Representative Juliana Stratton (D-Chicago). “Illinois does not have to follow the Trump administration in a race to bottom rolling back basic safeguards, and SB2213 will ensure that we do not.”

SB2213 would maintain existing environmental and worker protections in Illinois pursuant to these federal laws, so that if federal minimum standards under any of these statutes are lowered, Illinois will not follow suit, but remain as protective as on January 19, 2017. The Federal Standards included in this law are the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, Mine Safety and Health Act, Federal Labor Standards Act.

“We applaud Senator Biss, Representative Stratton, and all the state lawmakers who are doing their best to protect the people and environment of Illinois at a time of great uncertainty,” said Illinois Sierra Club Chapter Director Jack Darin. “We have limited control over what Scott Pruitt and other Trump administration officials can do to in Washington, but the Baseline Protection Act will limit the damage they can do here in Illinois.”



Chicago is One Step Closer to a 100% Clean Energy Future

On November 21, 2017, the Chicago City Council approved updates to the 2014 Chicago Energy Benchmarking Ordinance. These updates will improve the visibility and transparency of building energy use, while also making the information easier to understand.

In summary, the updates will create a new Chicago Energy Rating system for large buildings required to report on annual energy consumption.  Properties in compliance with benchmarking reporting will receive between one and four stars on a four-star rating system, based on their 1-100 ENERGY STAR score. Properties with one, two, or three stars will be able to earn an additional star if they have improved by at least 10 points in the past two reporting years. Building owners will be required to post their rating in a prominent location and to share the rating at time of listing the property for lease or sale. The new rating system goes into effect in 2019.

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A draft mock-up of the rating placard

The new rating system would be based on the following scale:  

  • Zero stars: Out of compliance with energy benchmarking (no report sent to the City) 
  • One star: 1-40 points
  • Two stars: 41-60 points OR a score of 11-40 points and a 10-point improvement in the past 2 years
  • Three stars: 61-80 points OR a score of 41-60 points and a 10-point improvement in the past 2 years
  • Four stars: 81-100 points OR a score of 61-80 points and a 10-point improvement in the past 2 years

The ratings would be issued by the City of Chicago and would be posted on each building required to benchmark. The additional visibility and transparency of the rating system will enable more informed decisions about building operating costs related to energy. If all buildings with ENERGY STAR scores below 90 were to improve their scores by only 10 points to earn one additional star in the new rating system, buildings would see savings of over $70 million per year. The updated ordinance is also an important step to combating climate change and transitioning all of Chicago to 100% clean energy.

The Season of Giving is Here – Why Not Donate a Vehicle

The Sierra Club Foundation’s Illinois Chapter loves its supporters! Wrap up the end of the year by donating your car, boat, truck, motorcycle or RV to our vehicle donation program, and give yourself a tax break.

Helping us achieve our shared vision of a healthy planet through this program, which can make a lasting impact. Just let our partners over at CARS know when you are ready to donate your used or unneeded vehicle, and they’ll do the rest.

Tile_Ses_1080x1080_2Our cost-free vehicle program is fast, efficient and secure. Call today 844-674-3772 or visit, and a friendly representative will help you get started so you can continue to support our efforts in educating and empowering people to protect and improve our environment.

December Discussions on Climate Action

CC Forum 1 - Setup

Last week we welcomed December with blustery temperatures and 3 noteworthy events related to climate action! December 1st marked the one year anniversary of the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA); On December 3rd, nearly 1,500 Chicagoans attended the Chicago Community Climate Forum at the Field Museum; and over December 4th and 5th, Mayor Emanuel hosted representatives from more than 50 cities at the North American Climate Summit. Each unique in its own way, these events engaged constituents and elected officials alike in discussions about the bold, collaborative, and systemic strategies needed to lead our communities, city, and state to a 100% clean energy future. If you’re interested in getting involved with our 100% clean energy campaign work as a volunteer, fill out this form so that we can keep you updated about upcoming training details.

On December 3rd, nearly 1,500 guests attended the Chicago Community Climate Forum at the Field Museum. In celebration of diverse, community-led climate solutions, the evening’s program featured the voices of various environmental leaders from across the city. In addition to the testimonies of the importance of education and advocacy, the program highlighted the critical need to recognize the social injustices that are interwoven with our climate issues. A performance by Kuumba Lynx clearly identified environmental racism as a systemic problem and warned solution seekers that “you can’t go green if you don’t go Black”.


Sunday’s forum featured panelists (from left to right): Dallas Goldtooth (Indigenous Environmental Network), Anthena Gore (Elevate Energy), Abigail Derby Lewis (The Field Museum), Alex Poltorak (Urban Canopy), and Toni Morrison (Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab).

The evening concluded with a video launch of the Chicago Agreement on Climate and Community and a reception designed to inspire conversation and new partnerships among attendees. More than 60 organizations, including the Sierra Club, were involved in coordinating the evening’s program which speaks to the fact that Chicagoans are ready to get to work. We are ready for bold programs and policies to protect our lands, prevent the contamination of our water and air, safeguard our health, ensure access to quality and nutritious food, and develop clean energy opportunities.

To read the Chicago Agreement, check here. For a more detailed recap of Sunday’s program, consider the Hanley Foundation’s recap.  

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Representing millions of people from cities across the world, over 50 mayors gathered to sign the Chicago Climate Charter. Photo Credit: Bloomberg Philanthropies Flickr

In light of the limited federal leadership on climate issues, local governments are putting forth bold and innovative strategies to move America towards a cleaner, healthier future. Over December 4-5, Mayor Emanuel hosted the North American Climate Summit in Chicago. The event brought together mayors from more than 50 cities, including Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Vancouver Mayor Robertson, and Dar es Salaam Mayor Charles Mwita, and Vice Chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors Christiana Figureres to sign the Chicago Climate Charter.

While enabling mayors to make specialized pledges based on their city’s particular needs and assets, the Chicago Charter reflects a baseline of commitments such as: meeting standards of the Paris climate agreement, collaborating with traditionally underrepresented groups in climate policy, and willingness to quantify and publicly report city emissions. As members of panel discussions and during breakout discussions, mayors were able to discuss local climate solutions and challenges they have experienced as they transition to a new climate economy.


Some of the 2017 Bloomberg Philanthropies awardees with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

As the Summit’s special guest, President Obama thanked attendees for their continued work towards managing and mitigating the climate issues affecting our world. Encouraging guests, he offered that we are each endowed with the ability to make a difference on these issues “wherever we have some impact, wherever we have some influence”. President Obama’s remarks reminded everyone that the work to do be done will involve a sense of collective work and responsibility. Despite what policies may come from Washington, we are able to hold our communities and cities to higher standards to secure a safer and healthier world for ourselves and future generations.


President Obama encourages North American Climate Summit guests. Photo Credit: Bloomberg Philanthropies Flickr

The Summit served as a platform to promote collaborative solution-seeking and a rededication to the globally shared responsibility to improve our environment’s health, safeguard constituents’ health, and equitably construct policy. Despite the tailored emission metrics and localized strategies to achieve them, there was a commonly articulated goal for many mayors at the Summit: developing a 100% clean energy economy.

Mayors from across America and the world offered that a complete transition from fossil fuels was one of the most aggressive and time-withstanding ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb the rising global temperature. Repeatedly amplifying the message that economic growth can accompany such a transition, mayors who have made 100% renewable energy commitments strongly encouraged others to consider doing the same. Several Ready for 100 mayors were present and proud to share their commitment to an equitable energy transition in their city before 2035.

December’s debut was filled with conversations about climate action and we at the Sierra Club are confident that the momentum will continue into the new year. As our state and city celebrated notable programming and policies, we are sure that Illinois and Chicago are ready for bold leadership, innovative strategies, and strong community-wide partnerships. Are you ready? If so, keep reading!

This year, we’ll be supporting volunteer leaders across the state, as they work to get their municipalities to commit to 100% clean energy as a long term goal. Are you interested in learning how to lead or engage in a bold + equitable campaign around clean energy justice in your community? We’ll be hosting a training in 2018 for volunteers across the state who want to launch 100% campaigns in their communities. Let us know if you’re interested in joining by filling out this form and we’ll keep you updated.

How Data Transparency Could Drive Energy and Cost Savings


Thank you to everyone who took action in encouraging the update of the Chicago Energy Benchmarking Ordinance.  On November 21, the Chicago City Council approved the update! For more information, consult the Chicago Energy Benchmarking Homepage and a list of frequently asked questions.


Approximately 50% of Illinois’ carbon pollution is from electricity generation by coal, nuclear, and natural gas plants. These aging plants are polluting our air and water at the cost of our health and climate. Fortunately, Illinois continues to develop its clean energy economy that will build new opportunities, reclaim polluted land, and create thousands of jobs.

This vision for the state reached a historic milestone when the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) was passed in Illinois in December 2016 and went into effect on June 1, 2017. Check out the footer of this post for more information about FEJA and the benefits it can bring to Illinois.*

Along with Illinois’ statewide clean energy plan, the City of Chicago is establishing itself as a clean energy leader.  The City remains committed to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and is 40% of the way to achieving its 2025 goal of a 26-28% greenhouse gas emission reduction. On April 9, 2017, Mayor Emanuel and the City of Chicago announced that the City’s municipal buildings will be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2025.

In October 2017, Mayor Emanuel proposed an update to the Chicago Energy Benchmarking Ordinance, which has been used to evaluate and improve energy efficiency in buildings across the city since 2014. The proposal strengthens the original Ordinance by making buildings’ energy usage easier to understand and more accessible to the public. The update would specifically apply to buildings 50, 000 square feet or more, which account for fewer than 1% of the buildings in the city. Despite the small quantity, these buildings represented 22% of energy use by all buildings when the Ordinance was passed.

The original Ordinance requires that building owners and managers annually measure and report their building’s energy use. Based on various criteria such as property size and number of occupants the building is given an ENERGY STAR score on a scale from 1 to 100. The Ordinance update will express the ENERGY STAR as a 4-star rating (see mock image below) that will be prominently displayed in the building and made available at the time of sale or lease.


The new 4-star rating system is an easy way to express the building’s energy efficiency.

The proposed addition to the Energy Benchmarking Ordinance will require no additional measuring or reporting by property owners or managers. Furthermore, there is not an obligation to make improvements based on a building’s score. The new strategies, however, enable current and prospective owners, residents or businesses to make informed decisions about operating costs related to energy in the building. The system may encourage more consideration of the many cost-saving energy efficiency programs available in Illinois. Incentive and rebate programs are available through major utility companies like ComEd and People’s Gas so that energy improvements can be made at little to no cost. The Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act also will increase funding for these programs so that residents across the state can benefit from these improvements. psp take action button2

Chicago residents, contact your alderman to show your support of the Updated Chicago Energy Benchmarking Ordinance which will empower the public to make more informed choices about their energy usage.

Creating more transparency and accessibility to energy use data is an important step in cutting energy costs and fossil fuel pollution. By supporting the new Updated Energy Benchmarking Ordinance, we can ensure that building managers, owners, businesses, and residents have a clearer understanding of how their energy dollars are used. Collectively, we can make Illinois a national leader in sustainability and energy conservation efforts.


—————————————————————————————————————————————–*FEJA is the result of years of grassroots organizing driven by thousands of community members with the support of advocacy partners and clean energy companies.

Key Benefits of FEJA

  • Invests $5 billion in energy efficiency programs to reduce families’ electricity bills
  • Allocates $180-220 million a year towards the purchase of energy produced by renewable sources
  • Directs $189 million, plus $10 million annually, to incentivize solar development and fund job training programs, including those for economically disadvantaged communities in every part of the state
  • Reduces air pollution by diminishing our reliance on fossil fuels by an estimate of 32 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030


Illinois Fracking Permit Withdrawn Statement of Jack Darin, Director, Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter

Woolsey Operating Company, LLC has withdrawn its fracking permit and associated application for a wastewater injection well in White County Illinois. The permit was the first horizontal fracking permit to be issued since the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act was enacted in 2013, and recently approved over the objections of area residents and thousands of Illinoisans. Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter, had this reaction:

“This decision comes as a relief to residents in White County and across the state who objected to the permit granted by the Rauner Administration. However, the relief is only temporary until Illinois tells the oil and gas industry that dangerous fracking is not welcome here. We must not let the mounting incidences of water contamination, air pollution and increased seismic activity associated with horizontal fracking to happen here in Illinois. Illinois should prioritize clean energy and the thousands of jobs it promises, rather than sacrificing our water to bet on the ups and downs of fossil markets.”

Time for a time-out on massive warehouse and distribution centers in Will County until a plan is in place that protects our communities

Residents of Will County strongly urge a moratorium be placed on the annexation and zoning for new warehouses and distribution centers in Village and City jurisdictions of Will County until Will County completes a comprehensive land use and transportation plan.  Building on the Will County Community Friendly Freight Mobility Plan’s emphasis on protecting quality of life and improving existing roads, we now need a comprehensive land use and transportation plan that protects our communities from industrial developments that negatively impact our quality of life, natural resources, and air and water quality.

trans-hubs-usWhile the county can lead the land use plan, it is up to municipal officials to approve or deny the zoning for new warehouses and distribution centers. The impacts of new warehouses do not stop at municipal boundaries.  Traffic from warehouses built in Elwood and Channahon affects roads in Joliet and New Lenox.  We need our municipal leaders to work together to protect the quality of life of all citizens.

It’s time for a time-out on massive warehouse and distribution centers until we have a plan in place that protects our communities.  Citizens of Will County want to preserve quality of life so that industry complements rather than overruns the region’s rich agricultural heritage. Citizens want diverse, sustainable economic growth rather than over-reliance on one sector.  Citizens want to ensure their families continue to breathe clean air and drink clean water, and that new industrial facilities don’t pollute and decimate the beautiful natural areas that are important to the community’s identity and economy.  


That plan is critical to the safety, health and quality of life of my community in that it will:

  • Promote safe and efficient movement of freight through Will County while protecting others on our road system;
  • Protect the prime farmland and open spaces that are growing economic assets to our region, and home to rare wildlife and recreation opportunities;
  • Place the highest value on environmental justice and quality of life for those of us who live, work and recreate near the freight traffic, warehouses and distribution centers.

Five important reasons to create a comprehensive land use and transportation plan:

  1. The transportation infrastructure cannot handle current traffic levels.  I-80 through Joliet is frequently a bottleneck, causing some drivers to divert onto local roads.  The I-80/53 interchange is crumbling and cannot handle traffic levels.  Since our roads are at capacity, it would be illogical to add more warehouse traffic.  traffic-conjestion
  2. Many warehouses sit vacant. It does not make sense to pave over some of the richest farmland in the world when there are empty warehouses and land already zoned for warehouses available.

    prime farmland in Will County

    Prime farmland is a prime asset of Will County–it should be protected, not paved over.

  3.  Air quality must be protected. While intermodal is often touted for its environmental benefits in terms of placing containers on rail instead of trucks, the hubs–like Will County– experience massive amounts of diesel exhaust due to the convergence of semis in one area to pick up and drop off shipping containers.  Elected officials need to protect our air quality and health by examining what measures Will County can take to move toward zero-emissions, electric vehicles.  
  4. Sensitive natural areas must be protected. Will County is home to natural areas that provide habitat to rare grassland birds and freshwater mussels. Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and the Kankakee River cannot be replaced and must be protected from the diesel fumes, runoff, and the sound and light pollution that accompanies warehouse developments. 

    tallgrass prairie

    Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Will County stretches across 20,000 acres. Photo: The Wetlands Initiative

  5. We must take a hard look at whether the corporations locating in Will County are paying warehouse workers a living wage. We must also take a hard look at what percentage of goods moving through Will County are made in the United States.  If taxpayers are asked to help pay for the infrastructure to support these warehouses, then taxpayers have a right to question whether this system of globalism makes sense for people and the planet. will-county-openspace