Author Archives: Terri Treacy

Reviving the Everglades of the North

0700-kankakee1January 26, 2017  The Kankakee River Basin lies just south of Chicago in Kankakee and Iroquois counties. The Basin was once considered among the most important freshwater ecosystems in the world. Dubbed The Everglades of North,  it had some of the highest concentrations of wildlife on the planet and was known as Chicago’s food pantry.

Last year the Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area (NWR&CA) was formally established. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is now taking the next step in the refuge planning process to preserve and enhance the remaining wetland habitat along the Kankakee River Basin.

Support the USFWS in the development of a Land Protection Plan (LPP).

Protecting the remaining remnants of wetland landscape and working with landowners to interconnect them will protect the many endangered plant and animal species that depend on wetland habitat for their survival.

Please take action today to let the USFWS know you are in support of the Kankakee NWR&CA. The USFWS comment period ends January 31st.

You can learn more about the Refuge and the Conservation Map here.

People’s Climate Movement–Chicagoland

Join us Today! January 23rd from 3:30 to 5:30

The People’s Climate Movement is calling for 100 hours of action in response to the inauguration. Sierra Club Valley of the Fox is joining nearby Sierra Club groups in a rally at Rep. Peter Roskam’s office to let him know that his constituents and neighbors want action on climate change. If you want to do something NOW to have a voice in our future, come to this rally. We will have speakers, chanting, and marching. Make some signs. Have your kids make some signs.

Action nourishes hope.

January 23 – Monday – 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm
People’s Climate Movement-Chicagoland
Rally at Peter Roskam’s Office
2700 International Drive, West Chicago, IL

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Questions? Email Barbara Hill

Illinois Budget Crisis Threatens Ratepayer Protection and Clean Energy Programs

While the Illinois budget crisis wreaks havoc on social programs across the state, the budget impasse also poses a major threat to three other major funds. These funds, each funded by ratepayers, not tax dollars, that are the primary funding for Illinois’ programs to protect the most vulnerable, lower bills through energy efficiency, and create jobs in renewable energy projects. Each of these funds have been specifically targeted during this budget crisis. We must act together to ensure that these important resources are protected in this time of crisis.

psp take action button2SB3382 and HB5791 will protect our most vulnerable, create good jobs in clean energy, and reduce pollution. SB3383 and HB5971 both ask for full funding and protection for the the Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standards (EEPS) Fund, while SB3383 also asks for full funding and protection for the Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Renewable Energy Resources Fund (RERF).

1. Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) This fund is a mix of ratepayer and federal funds, and helps low income utility customers pay gas and electric bills to avoid the shut-off of service. Funds are also used to help these customers save energy through weatherization projects. More than 300,000 vulnerable Illinois households use LIHEAP to assist with energy costs. This includes seniors, disabled persons and low-income families. LIHEAP is funded by federal funds and a charge on utility bills – no state tax dollars are provided. The program consists of two funds – the Supplemental Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Block Grant Fund In 2015, the LIHEAP program was targeted for elimination. SB 3383 would protect both LIHEAP funds in Fiscal Year 2017 by appropriating the full amount of anticipated funds collected from ratepayers and received from the federal government to protect our most vulnerable.

2. Renewable Energy Resources Fund (RERF) This fund, held at the Illinois Power Agency, is collected from alternative electric suppliers and is supposedly dedicated to buying renewable energy as part of Illinois’ electric suppliers. Payments from these alternative suppliers are part of their required compliance with Illinois’ Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires a certain percentage of each supplier’s energy portfolio to come from renewable sources. To date these funds have been used to buy renewable energy credits from newly constructed solar energy projects – directly creating good jobs in Illinois. Both the pending Clean Jobs Bill (HB2607/SB1485) and ComEd’s Future Energy Plan (HB3328/SB1879) depend on RERF dollars for a new low-income community solar program. No state tax dollars are used on these programs. They are entirely collected from electric suppliers. In 2015, $98 million was swept from the RERF. SB 3383 would protect RERF funds in Fiscal Year 2017 by appropriating $120M, the approximate current balance in the Fund, to create jobs in solar energy projects.

3. Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standards (EEPS) Fund The Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS) at DCEO is used by ComEd and Ameren to help homes, businesses, and local governments save energy. These projects have lowered electric bills by well over $1 billion in the last decade and created good jobs modernizing and retrofitting homes, businesses, and local government buildings with energy-saving technologies. No state tax dollars are used on these programs. They are entirely collected from ratepayers and used by ComEd and Ameren on energy efficiency projects. In 2015, these funds were targeted for sweeps. SB 3383 would protect EEPS funds in Fiscal Year 2017 by appropriating up to $125M, or the maximum amount collected from ratepayers, to help lower electric bills through energy conservation.

DON’T SWEEP AWAY ILLINOIS’ CLEAN ENERGY FUTURE

Act Now — Support SB 3383 and HB5791

 

Shawnee Parkway — New Name for a Decades-old Proposal in far Southern Illinois

Sierra Club is opposed to the Shawnee Parkway, a proposed multi-lane, high-speed highway to facilitate the trucking industry through a portion of southernmost Illinois. The negative impacts to the environment far outweigh any perceived advantages.

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Shawnee Parkway Study Area MapThe Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has invited the public to review and comment on the draft Purpose and Need Statement for the Shawnee Parkway Study. The study is being conducted to evaluate the need for a new east/west transportation “improvement” from the intersection of Illinois Route 3/146 and Interstate 57 in Alexander, Pulaski and Union Counties. The 350-square-mile study area includes several important natural resource areas that provide important habitat for federally listed species and migratory birds including migratory waterbirds, neotropical migrants and various raptors.

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Indiana bat. USFWS photo.

Nationally recognized Important Bird Areas include Horseshoe Lake State and Fish Wildlife Area, the Thebes-area Mississippi Kite Complex, and Union County State Fish and Wildlife Area. Cypress Creek NWR is globally recognized as an Important Bird area and the Cache River and Cypress Creek Wetlands Area RAMSAR site is located within the study area.

Illinois Natural Inventory sites within the study area include Brown Barrens’ Nature Preserve, Berryville Shale Glade Nature Preserve, and McClure Shale Nature Preserve. Additionally, the federally endangered Indiana bat has been documented throughout southernmost Illinois, with known hibernacula within the study area.

800px-Mississippi_KiteThe biologically rich and diverse environment and natural beauty of the entire study area makes it an important place for high-quality outdoor recreation experiences such as hunting, fishing, bird watching, canoeing, hiking, camping, nature photography and much more. Impacts from a multi-lane, high-speed, heavy trafficked highway on outdoor recreation enjoyment include noise and air pollution, intrusions on rural viewsheds, and damage to the ecosystem recreationists have come to visit.

h_truckMajor highways cause damaging environmental fragmentation to the landscape. Studies have shown that reduced landscape connectivity and limited movements due to highways, particularly those with high speed and high traffic volumes, result in higher wildlife mortality, lower reproduction rates, ultimately smaller populations and overall lower population viability. The fragmentation effect of roads forms a barrier to movement where animals become reluctant to move across roads to access mates or preferred habitats for food and cover. The degree of aversion to roads can generally be attributed to features associated with the road, e.g., traffic volume, road width or major habitat alterations caused by the road.  High-volume and high-speed roads tend to be the greatest barriers and most effective in disrupting animal movements and population interchange.

Cape Girardeau, Missouri and the trucking industry would be the primary benefactors of a high-speed truck transit route through Illinois, while southern Illinois has nothing to gain and everything to lose. The region would not only suffer from the negative environmental impacts brought by a multi-lane highway, Illinois would forever be responsible for the cost of its maintenance. We have difficulty keeping the two interstate highways already running through the study area in good repair—it would be fiscally irresponsible to add a third such highway.

Southern Illinois would be better served by IDOT if existing roads and bridges in the study area were adequately maintained. Additionally, enhancing existing recreation and tourism opportunities would create construction jobs while maintaining the integrity of the fragile environment. We would like to see projects such as expanding the Tunnel Hill Trail into a web of interconnected bicycle trails and lanes, and hiking trails throughout the region; additional campgrounds and compatible lodging; and full staffing and educational programming at the Cache Wetlands Center.

Comments can be sent before March 15, 2016 to:

Jeffrey Keirn
Illinois Department of Transportation
Division of Highways
Region 5, District 9
PO Box 100
Carbondale, Illinois 62903-0100

Background

The Shawnee Parkway proposal is the latest in a long line of proposals going back decades for running a major highway through the heart of southernmost Illinois. The three most recent proposals began in the early 2000s with a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet proposal to continue Interstate 66 from Paducah, Kentucky through Illinois to connect to Interstate 55 at Cape Girardeau, Missouri. That proposal died when Kentucky’s Purpose and Need Study showed no economic feasibility to build the highway.

In 2012 Cape Girardeau initiated a $3.6 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation with a 20 percent match from IDOT (thanks, Cape Girardeau!) generating a total of $4.5 million to conduct a new feasibility study. This proposal was given a new name, 66 Corridor, but was otherwise basically identical. A Community Advisory Group (CAG) was formed and a Purpose and Need Study was developed. In early 2015 payments to the outside firm conducting the “study” were halted and by July the project was cancelled.

In November 2016 IDOT announced the current, Shawnee Parkway, project. The main difference this time is the endpoints for the highway. Whereas the previous proposals called for the highway to go all the way to Kentucky, this particular proposal ends at Interstate 57 between Anna and Cairo. Since the current study area was derived from the 66 Corridor Project we are concerned about potential future impacts including the development of 66 Corridor. Therefore, it’s imperative that the cumulative effects of potential future development be included in the Environmental Impact Statement.

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Bobcat Rules Open for Public Comment

Bobcat by Valerie aka ucumari Flickr attreq noncomm noder resizedThe Illinois Department of Natural Resources has recently proposed changes to two sections of the Illinois Administrative Code that will allow for hunting and trapping of bobcats in southern and western Illinois. These rules are a result of the statute that passed last year.

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Bobcats were listed as a threatened species in Illinois from 1977 to 1999. When the bobcat was removed from the list there was no follow up management, recovery or sustainability plan written or implemented. 

IDNR’s current statewide population estimate of 3,000 to 5,000 bobcats is derived from non-scientific, anecdotal evidence supplied by hunters during deer hunting season.

The IDNR’s proposed rules will allow a person to trap or hunt bobcats during the proposed hunting season. The season limits one bobcat per person, but the proposed rules allow the IDNR to use its discretion in determining the number of permits that will be issued.

The IDNR does not have a management or sustainability plan for bobcats and is currently working off of a geographically limited and outdated study regarding bobcat populations, habitat, and overall viability of harvest. There is tremendous concern that this proposal does not take into account ecological science for best practices for bobcat protection throughout the state.

The IDNR has done little to determine the current status of bobcats in the state and less to determine the true sustainability of allowing this important and recently threatened species to be hunted statewide. Though species can be delisted from the threatened and endangered species list upon reaching a certain level of recovery, instituting regulations allowing harvest before the species has reconstituted its available habitat range is premature and likely to reverse any progress bobcats have made.

Finally, the Illinois Wildlife Code requires that the harvest of bobcats in the state shall be non-detrimental. This requires that biological and management information demonstrate that harvesting bobcats is sustainable and that the removal of bobcats from the wild would not contribute to the over-utilization of the species, would pose no net harm to the status of the species, would not lead to long-term declines that would affect the viability of the population, and would not lead to significant habitat range loss or restriction. The IDNR has not demonstrated ability to meet any of these requirements.

Without additional science to show that hunting and trapping bobcats can be non-detrimental, these proposed rules should NOT be supported. This species needs to remain protected to prevent it from being added to the threatened list again.

If you’d like to take action, please sign our petition.

 

 

A quarter century of Illinois Wilderness symbolized on the new Shawnee National Forest quarter dollar coin

Shawnee-reverse_150x150Today, February 4th, the U.S. Mint is set to release the Shawnee National Forest quarter dollar coin–an event brimming with symbolism.

The coin features the iconic Camel Rock, a unique sandstone formation resembling its namesake that overlooks the Garden of the Gods Wilderness. The camel standing sentry over Garden of the Gods is symbolic of the Illinois Wilderness Act that has been protecting seven Wilderness Areas within the Shawnee National Forest for a quarter century.

In the 1980’s, Sierra Club worked with other wilderness advocates and newly elected Congressman Glenn Poshard in a campaign that saw victory in the passage by Congress of the 1990 Illinois Wilderness Act.  The act designated Garden of the Gods and six other high quality roadless areas in Shawnee National Forest as “Wilderness” – to be preserved as areas that provide solitude or primitive recreation that renews the spirit.  Camel Rock now symbolizes that inspirational quality of “wilderness” – areas largely untouched by man.

This new 25 cent coin and the 25th anniversary of Illinois Wilderness are reminders to all who value these wilderness areas that we must be vigilant and respectful in order to maintain these valuable and unique parts of our state – for our families and for our future.

The release of the Shawnee National Forest quarter dollar coin — the 31st coin of the U.S. Mint America the Beautiful Quarters® Program — will take place at Southeastern Illinois College Gymnasium, 3575 College Road, Harrisburg, Illinois, on February 4 at 10 a.m. To find out how to obtain the new coin visit the U.S. Mint website.

To find out more about Wilderness in the Shawnee National Forest visit: http://illinoiswilderness.org/

35,000 Clean Power Plan Petitions Delivered to Governor Rauner

DSC_0827Thanks to all the health, faith, clean energy, environmental and business leaders who came out yesterday, nearly 35,000 petitions collected from across the state of Illinois were delivered to Governor Bruce Rauner’s offices at the State Capitol in Springfield and at the Thompson Center in Chicago. The petitions urge Governor Rauner to support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) historic Clean Power Plan, and urge the Governor and Illinois public officials to prioritize growing jobs in renewable energy and efficiency in Illinois’ state goals to meet the Clean Power Plan.

12182971_10153713705807299_8476971390061912394_o“The Clean Power Plan gives Illinois a tremendous opportunity to attract new clean energy jobs, cut dangerous pollution and provide real savings on electric bills for those who need it most,” said Pastor Booker Steven Vance with Faith in Place. “Governor Rauner is one of the few governors left in the United States to speak out on the Clean Power Plan, so we’re lifting up the voices of nearly 35,000 Illinoisans urging him to do the right thing by embracing clean energy policies that will put Illinois on the right path.”

DSC_0765Under President Obama’s direction, U.S. EPA finalized the first-ever limits on carbon pollution for existing power plants in August 2015. This historic step by EPA to reduce carbon pollution from the electric sector is the single biggest step our nation has ever taken to address climate change while accelerating clean energy.

DSC_0795“We have a historic opportunity before us to put thousands of Illinoisans to work in clean energy,” said Shannon Fulton, Director of Business Development, StraightUp Solar. “Renewable energy manufacturing and deployment is a rapidly growing industry, and if we don’t create policies that attract these businesses, Illinois will be left behind. Governor Bruce Rauner must see and seize the opportunity the Clean Power Plan presents to bring clean energy jobs to Illinois.”

Now that the Clean Power Plan is final, it is up to states to build state implementation plans that work for each state’s unique energy landscape. States will need to submit initial plans to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by September 2016. The Rauner Administration will soon need to demonstrate how Illinois is preparing to meet the Clean Power Plan goals.

DSC_0814“The Clean Power Plan gives Governor Rauner tools to build solutions that ensure that no Illinois community is left behind as we shift to a clean energy economy,” said Antonio Franco, Vice-President of Student Environmental Action Coalition at Illinois State University; Member of Illinois People’s Action. “Policies that work to cut pollution can also work to create revenue for coal communities and low-income communities to use to invest in for workforce development, and direct bill assistance for consumers.”

Since Illinois set clean energy targets in 2007, wholesale power prices have been cut by $177 million dollars per year, and more than 5 million tons of air pollution has been avoided. The savings from the lowered wholesale power prices have been passed on to consumers.

“I know firsthand that renewable energy industry has the potential to attract millions of dollars in private capital and development to the state of Illinois, if we have the right policies in place,” said Will Kenworthy, Vice President of Regional Operations, Midwest, Microgrid Energy. “Illinois used to be a leader in manufacturing and developing clean, renewable energy. Recently, Illinois has slipped in the rankings, stalling new economic development in the state. The Clean Power Plan gives Governor Rauner an opportunity to revitalize Illinois so it can reclaim its spot as a clean energy leader.”

The American Lung Association found recently found that more than 6.7 million Illinoisans breathe unhealthy air due to pollution. According to the Respiratory Health Association, death rates from asthma are particularly high for African Americans and Hispanics – three to six times higher than for Caucasians – and are concentrated in urban areas, including Chicago.

cppdelivery“As a parent concerned about my child’s health, I’m proud that we have clean energy solutions to tackle the threat of pollution to our public health right here in Illinois, said Robin Garlish, Peoria Mother and member of the Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance. “When it’s a matter of the air we breathe, and the health of our families, there’s no time to waste, and no reason to wait. We urge Governor Rauner to support the Clean Power Plan now– rather than make children or seniors to spend another day, another month or another year waiting to breathe cleaner air.”