Author Archives: sierraclubillinois

Chicago Earns Title As Greenest City

New Chi

For the second year in a row, Chicago has earned the title of Greenest City by the National Green Building Adoption Index. With nearly 70% of all office buildings certified as green buildings, Chicago continues to lead the country in sustainability practices.

This year’s title as Greenest City is another achievement for our city- one that should  encourage more bold goals! Prioritizing energy efficiency and energy waste reduction are critical steps on the path to a 100% clean energy future. While the current target to power municipal buildings with clean energy by 2025 is a laudable milestone, we encourage the city to consider a similar city-wide commitment so that all residents can benefit and be part of creating an equitable clean energy future.

Committing to a city-wide 100% clean energy future would place Chicago among more than 75 other cities who have committed to the same. Imagine the profound impact Chicago could have, locally and nationally, by investing in an equitable 100% clean renewable energy future! As a globally recognized sustainability leader, we believe that our city must make bold goals that blend world-class strategy with community values and priorities for the greatest benefit for the most people in our city. Whether motivated by lower energy bills, cost savings, public health, or environmental health, a clean energy future will provide a strong foundation to becoming the resilient, sustainable city we aim to be.


“Illinois Must Step Up” In the Wake of Trump’s Unlawful Dirty Power Plan

As Trump and Wheeler Gut Clean Air Safeguards to Appease Coal, Will Rauner Respond?

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, former coal lobbyist and acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler released an unlawfully weak carbon pollution policy that would gut the Clean Power Plan’s life-saving standards and do next to nothing to fight the climate crisis, continuing the agenda of disgraced former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Since the Clean Power Plan was proposed in 2015, hundreds of businesses and organizations and tens of thousands of Illinoisans have asked Governor Rauner to commit to a carbon reduction plan, but Rauner has never responded.  Earlier this month, Rauner keynoted a rally with coal CEOs where he praised the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back clean air standards and said “I think we’ve got a friend now in the White House.”

In response, Jack Darin, Director of the Illinois Sierra Club, released the following statement:  

“Donald Trump’s decision to opt out of reducing carbon pollution is unlawful, immoral, and threatens to opt America out of the global clean energy economy.  Illinois must step up to object to this plan, and set bold clean energy and climate goals to protect our health and bring clean energy jobs to our communities.  Instead of rallying with coal barons to cheer on Trump’s rollbacks, Bruce Rauner should listen to the Illinois residents, businesses, and lawmakers urging him to make it clear that clean energy is Illinois’ future.”

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



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

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


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,, (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  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.


Sierra Club, Senator Durbin endorse Kwame Raoul for Attorney General

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.


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 ( or for purchase from the State Board of Elections, Springfield, IL

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.

draft placard

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.