Author Archives: sierrastephanie

Monarchs Need You: Sign Up for a Monarch Decal!

Monarch butterflies are counting on you! Sign up for a monarch license plate decal! This decal will help fund the planting of roadside habitat for monarchs in Illinois.

You can apply for your decal in three easy steps:
Download, print, and fill the form out, including “Monarch Roadside Habitat” for “Name of Specialty Plate Being Requested.” Send the form in to the Secretary of State’s office with a $10 check.

monarch-from-terri-usfwsAs soon as 2000 people sign up, a decal will be created and mailed to you. Please let us know you completed the form by filling out this survey so we can track sign ups and make sure the Secretary of State has your information.

The beautiful orange and black butterfly is a familiar garden visitor in the Midwest, but it may not be part of our future.

The monarch butterfly is a beloved insect in the U.S. and the state insect of Illinois. The monarch’s incredible annual migration of nearly three thousand miles (over several life cycles) between Canada and Mexico is an unrivaled natural phenomenon. Due to its location, Illinois happens to be one of the most important places along the monarch’s annual two-way migration. Therefore, providing habitat and protections for monarchs in Illinois is essential to their continued survival.

The monarch is in trouble.  In the past twenty years, 173 million acres of its midwestern breeding habitat has been lost, the equivalent to the state of Texas, converted to cropland for the growing ethanol industry, scoured of milkweed from farm fields by herbicide usage and plowed under for buildings for an expanding human population.

As the breeding areas and habitat along the migration route have disappeared, the population in 2014 sank to as low as 90% below historic averages.

There are challenges at the monarch wintering site in Mexico as well. Illegal logging is reducing the size of the oyamel fir forests which provide the right temperature and moisture conditions during the winter. Extreme weather events in both the summer and winter territories are contributing to the precipitous population decline.

The situation has reached a point where the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety have petitioned U.S. Fish and Wildlife for endangered species designation for the monarch butterfly.  An agreement has been reached that a decision will be made by June 2019.

Please consider purchasing a decal and help us save this iconic species!

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Press Release: Sierra Club Announces General Assembly Endorsements, Launches Clean Energy Voter Contact Campaign in Key IL Battlegrounds

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Contact: Kady McFadden, kady.mcfadden@sierraclub.org, (630) 747-0915

Sierra Club Announces General Assembly Endorsements,
Launches Clean Energy Voter Contact Campaign in Key IL Battlegrounds
Organizing Staff & Volunteers on the Ground For Clean Jobs Bill Supporters

Chicago – The Illinois Sierra Club today announced its endorsements in races for the Illinois General Assembly and its largest ever voter contact campaign in some of Illinois’ most hotly contested battleground state legislative districts. Sierra Club’s full list of endorsements can be found here.

“We are proud to support candidates who want to fight through gridlock in Springfield to protect our drinking water, open spaces, and create clean energy jobs to cut carbon pollution,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter.  “These are leaders who take a stand for our future by supporting the Clean Jobs Bill and other policies to protect our environment and create good jobs, and we are proud to recommend them to Illinois voters.”

Sierra Club’s Illinois endorsements can be found at https://illinois.sierraclub.org/vote2016. To support these candidates, Sierra Club has fielded a staff of paid organizers and is mobilizing its grassroots membership base in swing districts in southern, central, and northeastern Illinois to inform voters about where candidates stand on energy and environmental policy.

“Across Illinois, we are finding that voters are fed up with partisan and personal attacks, and eager for information about where candidates stand on the issues that are so important to our future,” said Kady McFadden, Deputy Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter.  “That’s why we’ve sent smart, well trained organizers out to mobilize our members and have face to face conversations with voters in communities across Illinois. We aim not to attack, but to inform, and be a breath of fresh air in an all too often negative campaign season.”

Sierra Club has fielded 12 paid organizers in recent weeks to mobilize voters to elect Sierra Club endorsed candidates, as well as activate the organization’s 80,000 members and supporters across Illinois to volunteer and vote for these candidates.  Already, Sierra Club staff and volunteers have knocked on over 8,000 doors to talk to voters about endorsed candidates, and identified over 1,500 voters who have committed to voting for clean jobs supporters.  By Election Day, Sierra Club aims to have 50,000 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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Lead pipes: In Chicago, out of sight should not mean out of mind

Joint op-ed by Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin and Rick Terven Jr, Legislative and Political Affairs Director for the Illinois Pipe Trades Association published in Crain’s Chicago Business August 23, 2016.
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Lead may be out of sight but it is not out of mind.
When we turn on the faucet, we expect that we’ll be drinking and using clean, safe water. As we’ve seen in Crain's LogoFlint, Mich., and in cities around the country—including Chicago, Highland Park,Galesburg and probably many others—that isn’t always the case. There is lead in the water of many cities, schools and homes. And it is something we need to solve now, not later.
There are over 1,700 community water systems in our state overseen by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. They serve more than 11.9 million residents. While the agency says 96.5 percent of these community drinking water systems are in full compliance with all health requirements, it also reports that “there are still more than 400,000 people in Illinois at health risk due to aging infrastructure.”

 

One of the hurdles to addressing this problem is that there isn’t nearly enough data. We can’t get the lead out of our water supply until we know where the lead is. And in many cases, we don’t. Communities may not even know they have a problem, much less where the lead pipes actually are in their systems. Under our streets and in buildings, these pipes are often hidden from view—out of sight, out of mind—but they pose a real threat to our safety. It’s long past time for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to step in and update its Lead and Copper Rule to make sure Americans know whether the pipes below them present a danger. We need a national inventory of these pipes—like we have for the natural gas pipes under our feet—and we need it now.

 

There’s an effort underway in Springfield to find these pipes and other infrastructure that needs to be modernized or replaced. The Illinois Senate has approved Senate Bill 550—a step forward in the fight for clean, safe water. This bill will also protect schoolchildren from lead poisoning by requiring testing of all drinking fountains and other sources of drinking water in our schools. We applaud state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, and state Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago, for sponsoring this proposal and urge the Illinois House and governor to quickly enact it into law. These are strong first steps, and combined with action from local, state and federal leaders, it will begin to help Illinois reduce the potential of lead exposure in our water.

Another example of action is happening in Galesburg. The city received a $4 million state grant to cover the cost of replacing approximately 2,000 lead service lines, which is nearly half its total lead lines. The principal of that loan will be forgiven, leaving the city to only pay the interest. This is exactly the type of program into which our state should be investing. Cities won’t be able to do this alone; we have to come together as a state and do the right thing by our children and grandchildren.

At the federal level, there are continued attempts to secure funding for Flint and other cities that are facing lead problems. Aside from congressional action, however, labor and environmental organizations are urging the U.S. EPA to update the Lead and Copper Rule with the requirement of a national inventory of pipe materials and to provide communities with more education on the dangers of lead in our water.

There are other benefits to taking action beyond making sure that our children are protected from the dangers of lead. Good middle-class jobs can be created and sustained cleaning up this mess. A recent report from the University of Illinois found that the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District that serves greater Chicago boosted the regional economy by $1.27 billion and created over 13,000 jobs in 2014. Increasing that investment also increases both the economic impact and the jobs impact.

With a concerted effort, we can face and overcome this problem. In doing so, we will both protect communities and grow quality, family-supporting jobs here in Illinois and around the country.

Jack Darin is the chapter director of the Illinois Sierra Club. Rick Terven Jr. is the legislative and political affairs director of the Illinois Pipe Trades Association, a collaboration of 19 local unions and 1,500 union contractors in Illinois, Iowa and Indiana.

Environmental Justice Legislation Signed Into Law

Legislation expanding the Illinois Environmental Justice Commission  was passed by both chambers and signed into law by Governor Rauner on July 8th.  The legislation adds members to the Commission on Environmental Justice, including new affected community members and labor representatives.  The bill was sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson in the Senate and Rep. Silvana Tabares in the House.  The effort was led by Illinois environmental justice advocates, and Sierra Club supported their efforts through our volunteer lobbying program and our staff in the State Capitol.

The Illinois Commission on Environmental Justice, created in 2011, requires that no segment of the population, regardless of race, national origin, age, or income, should bear disproportionately high or adverse effects of environmental pollution. The Commission has administrative and other support from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Its duties are to review and analyze the impact and adequacy of current State laws and policies on the issue of environmental justice and sustainable communities; and, to recommend options to the Governor for addressing issues, concerns, or problems related to environmental justice, including prioritizing areas of the State that need immediate attention.

SB2920 added 4 new members to the board—2 from business and labor and 2 additional, for a total of 4, from affected communities. It also removed the Dept. of Aging and added the housing office of the Dept. of Human Services.

From the Illinois EPA website:

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA or Agency) is committed to protecting the health of the citizens of Illinois and its environment, and to promoting environmental equity in the administration of its programs to the extent it may do so legally and practicably. The Illinois EPA supports the objectives of achieving environmental equity for all of the citizens of Illinois.

“Environmental Justice” is based on the principle that all people should be protected from environmental pollution and have the right to a clean and healthy environment. Environmental justice is the protection of the health of the people of Illinois and its environment, equity in the administration of the State’s environmental programs, and the provision of adequate opportunities for meaningful involvement of all people with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

The assumption of this policy is that it is evolutionary. Environmental Justice policies and activities will continue to develop, as appropriate, through the normal course of the Agency’s regulatory and programmatic duties. In addition to the normal evolution of the policy, the Agency is planning outreach activities to gather comments and public input for this spring. The Illinois EPA recognizes that this policy alone will not achieve environmental equity in all instances. Moreover, public and private commitment to the implementation of this policy is needed to achieve the goals of this policy and to promote environmental equity in this State.

Earth Day 2016: Citizens for Climate Action

Illinois celebrated Earth Day this year with a rally and lobby day in Springfield.

The Sierra Club partnered with community leaders, climate activists, unions, and many other allies to bring over 350 people to the state’s capital to push for the passage of urgent environmental legislation.

On the top on the agenda was the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill, a bill to ramp up renewable energy like wind and solar to 35 percent by 2030, cut energy use through efficiency by 20 percent by 2025, and limit dangerous carbon pollution. Activists also rallied and lobbied to begin a stakeholder process on state implementation of the Clean Power Plan, to protect clean energy funds from budget sweeps, and to ensure environmental justice participation in Clean Power Plan implementation.

The day started bright and early for many participants who boarded buses from their communities to the capitol:

The bus from Waukegan

The bus from Waukegan

Supporters gathered around the Lincoln Statue to hear from legislative champions and grassroots leaders. Of special note, we had a number of speakers from local Sierra Club teams and coalitions:

Dulce Ortiz from Clean Power Lake County spoke of the need to create a just transition for Waukegan’s lakefront. Props to Celeste Flores—our new Waukegan Beyond Coal organizer for inviting Dulce to speak, and for recruiting a full bus!

16.05.02 Dulce

Dulce Ortiz

Eden Vitoff, a high school student with Green Lyfe who has partnered closely with Metro Green Alliance, spoke about the need to protect the climate for future generations. Props to Elizabeth Scrafford for recruiting Eden to her campaign and getting 31 folks from Alton to join for the day!

Eden Vitoff

Eden Vitoff

JC Kibbey, a researcher with Unite Here Local 1 and member of Chicago Sierra Club’s Executive Committee, spoke about the importance of the partnership between labor and the environmental community.

JC Kibbey

JC Kibbey

After the rally, participants dropped off postcards at the Governor’s office, calling on him to pass the Clean Jobs Bill and begin a Clean Power Plan stakeholder process in Illinois. Many participants lobbied their legislators on top environmental bills.

Pastor Norma Prays with Sen. Haine that make the right decision to support the Clean Jobs Bill.

Pastor Norma prays with Sen. Haine for support the Clean Jobs Bill.

Pastor Norma prays with Sen. Haine for support the Clean Jobs Bill.

The postcards we dropped with Governor Rauner

The postcards we dropped with Governor Rauner

Big thank yous to: Illinois Climate Table—especially partners Faith in Place, People for Community Recovery, Illinois Environmental Council, Unitarian Universalist Advocacy Network of Illinois, and Moms Clean Air Force; Press Pro: Emily Rosenwasser; Email hack: Debra Cohen; Legislative wizards: Christine Nannicelli, Terri Treacy, & Jack Darin; Organizing gurus: Kady McFadden, Allison Fisher; Sierra Club volunteer teams who rocked the turnout and the Captial: Woods & Wetlands/Clean Power Lake County,  Heart of Illinois/Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance, Piasa Palisades/Metro East Green Alliance, Illinois Statewide Clean Power Team; bus and carpool captain extraordinaires: Tim Milburn, Pastor Vance, Hari Lambda, Doris Davenport, Julian Chavez, Melinda Elliott, Celeste Flores, Erin Crilly, + Elizabeth Scrafford; Pastor Norma Patterson who brought her fiery spirit to speak at the Alton rally and make metro east legislators squirm as she prayed over them that they would do the right thing and co-sponsor the Clean Jobs Bill.

Press Hits:

WCIA Springfield

http://www.illinoishomepage.net/news/local-news/day-early-earth-day

Alton Telegraph

Rally for ‘clean jobs’ held in Upper Alton

WHBF Quad Cities

http://www.ourquadcities.com/news/clean-energy-rally-held-in-illinois

Preview from the RiverBender (Alton)

http://www.riverbender.com/articles/details/alton-to-join-hundreds-to-rally-in-springfield-for-clean-energy-and-climate-action-for-earth-day-12598.cfm

WBGZ Radio (Alton)

http://www.altondailynews.com/news/details.cfm?clientid=17&id=211913#.Vxpx8_krLcs

WAND

http://www.wandtv.com/story/31782183/earth-day-of-action-rally-underway-at-state-capitol

NBC Week/ABC HOI-19 CINewsNow Peoria

http://www.cinewsnow.com/news/local/Hundreds-travel-to-Springfield-to-rally-for-cleaner-energy-376636851.html.

Clean Energy Town Hall brings out 100+ supporters in Park Forest

Jack Darin presenting info about the Clean Power Plan

Jack Darin presenting info about the Clean Power Plan

On Wednesday, September 16th, more than one hundred Sierra Club members, friends and supporters attended a clean energy town hall at Governors State University in University Park, which was co-sponsored by the Village of Park Forest. State Rep. Anthony DeLuca joined community leaders and clean energy advocates at Governors State University to highlight clean energy job potential in the south and southwest suburbs, and how the U.S. Clean Power Plan can grow the local economy and create jobs. Speakers also discussed the Illinois Clean Jobs bill and local efforts to support clean energy in Illinois.

An unprecedented speaker line-up, including Harry Ohde (represented IBEW 134), Cheryl Johnson (People from Community Recovery) and Pastor Booker Vance (Faith in Place), joined chapter director Jack Darin to discuss the economic, environmental and social benefits of the Clean Power Plan. Attendees heard about the environmental justice impacts of the plan, local job training facilities for clean energy electric workers and the moral obligation to tackle climate change. Pizza was served as well!

The Illinois Sierra Club and our allies have convened clean energy town halls across the state over the past year. Watch the Sierra Club calendar and your inbox to see if one is coming up in your community!

Special thanks to Sarah Coulter and Tom Mick for all their help on this event!

Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board on Threatened & Endangered List

Endangered barn owl

Endangered barn owl

Board Funding Eliminated

Take Action:  The Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board was recently zeroed out by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.  We urge IDNR to fully fund and staff the Endangered Species Protection Board in a way that preserves the science needed to protect all species and preserves the Board’s independent decision making.

What Happened: As of September 15, 2015, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (citing the tenuous state of the IDNR financial condition and the bleak Illinois State budget) decided to no longer fund the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board now or in the foreseeable future.  Funding for the Board operations and staff is from a single line appropriation in the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Budget. There is no funding for Board staff or operational activity which puts at risk the protections of endangered and threatened species of plants and animals in Illinois.

About the Endangered Species Protection Board

  • The Endangered Species Protection Board was created by the Endangered Species Protection Act in 1972 and its roles and responsibilities are codified in statute (520 ILCS 10/6).

  • The board consists of nine volunteer members, who are appointed by the Governor.  At least six members must be naturalists, including at least two zoologists, two ecologists, and one botanist.

  • There are 480 animals and plants currently listed on the endangered and threatened species list.  The board is responsible for maintaining and updating the List of Illinois Endangered and Threatened Species as warranted and no less often than every 5 years.

  • The Board also advises the Department on best practices related to the protection, conservation management practices and habitat for these fragile species.

  • By law, changes to the Illinois List must be based on scientific evidence including evaluating each of the currently listed species and additional species for changes in population size, changes in range in the state, whether it occurs at protected sites, any known threats to its existence, as well as features of its life history which might have a bearing on survival. To accomplish this requirement, staff need to conduct and participate in field surveys and research, compile data and biological information from multiple sources for each species, and prepare a status and distribution review with listing status recommendation for Board consideration.

How will this critical work get done?

These duties are clearly above and beyond what can be expected of a volunteer board; therefore, without dedicated Board staff ​ the IDNR needs to demonstrate how it will provide staffing support and how it will be independent enough to provide the checks and balances that the Board needs to assure that potential conflicts between the department and the board are truly resolved.

Why do we care about protecting Endangered and Threatened Species?

Special attention is given to protecting species of plants and animals that have become rare to prevent their complete disappearance from our environment.

  • Plants and animals serve as early indicators of environmental problems that are potentially dangerous to humans.

  • Any species of plant or animal may someday provide a product or service that is valuable to humans from food to fiber to medicine.

  • Every plant or animal species contributes to the stability of the ecosystem. Each species is connected in a complex relationship to others. The loss of any species impacts other species that have evolved along with it.

  • The loss of any plant or animal species diminishes the natural beauty of the earth which we all benefit from for our physical, spiritual and emotional health and well being.

Please take Action today! Let Governor Rauner and IDNR Director Rosenthal you want a fully funded Endangered Species Protection Board.