Category Archives: Press Releases

Illinois House and Senate Pass Landmark Legislation to Clean Up Coal Ash

Bill addresses coal ash impoundments plaguing the state for decades

Yesterday the Illinois Legislature passed SB9, the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act, which now heads to the Governor’s desk. The groundbreaking bill addresses the many waste pits filled with coal ash, the toxic byproduct of burning coal, located all over the state. Illinois is now the third state in the country to pass legislation providing significant coal ash protections above and beyond federal requirements. The legislation creates a regulatory framework to ensure polluters, not taxpayers, pay for needed closure and cleanup, guarantees public participation and transparency around cleanups for affected communities, and provides Illinois EPA the funds it needs to properly oversee closure and cleanup. It also requires Illinois to put in place standards for coal ash impoundments that are at least as protective as federal coal ash rule requirements, with additional protections against dust and water pollution.

SB9 amends the Illinois Environmental Protection Act and was sponsored by State Sen. Scott Bennett (D-Champaign). State Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Champaign) sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives. A large coalition of activists from around Illinois championed the legislation that will now proceed to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk to be signed into law, including; Central Illinois Healthy Communities Alliance, Citizens Against Longwall Mining, Citizens Against Ruining the Environment, Clean Power Lake County, Earthjustice, Eco-Justice Collaborative, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Faith in Place Action Fund, Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois People’s Action, Metro-East Green Alliance, Prairie Rivers Network, Protect the Middle Fork, Sierra Club Illinois Chapter, and Springfield Clean. See quotes from legislators and coalition partners here.

Illinois has the highest concentration of coal ash impoundments in the country. The Illinois EPA has found groundwater contamination from coal ash waste sites dating back to 2009. A 2018 report from environmental groups Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice, Prairie Rivers Network and Sierra Club analyzing data collected by ash dump owners under the federal coal ash rule found that 22 of 24 of Illinois’ reporting coal ash dumpsites have unsafe levels of toxic pollutants in the groundwater. Illinois joins Virginia and North Carolina in addressing coal ash through state level legislation.

“Sierra Club Illinois applauds the General Assembly for passing this historic bill to protect Illinois communities and waterways from toxic coal ash waste that has been contributing to groundwater contamination across this state for too many years. It’s critical that we protect Illinois taxpayers from the clean up costs that profitable companies like NRG and Vistra should be responsible for if they do business in Illinois,” said Joyce Blumenshine, Conservation Chair for the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club.

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Sierra Club Statement on Introduction of the Clean Energy Jobs Act

Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition introduces new legislation to put Illinois on track to achieve 100% clean energy, expand workforce development, and responsibly transition away from fossil fuels

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

“The introduction of the Clean Energy Jobs Act SB2132 (CASTRO) / HB3624 (WILLIAMS) today marks another historic moment for Illinois to lead the response to federal inaction on climate change. This bill was shaped by thousands of Illinois residents who participated in the Clean Jobs Coalition’s “Listen, Lead, Share” campaign, which hosted dozens of community listening sessions across the state in 2018. Sierra Club volunteers across the state worked with coalition partners to convene these sessions, and we heard loud and clear that Illinois is ready for a 100% clean energy future that includes everyone and lifts up those that need it most.

The Clean Energy Jobs Act sets our state on a track to reduce dangerous pollution from fossil fuels, create more quality careers in every corner of the state, and power our state with a strong and equitable 100% clean energy economy by 2050. Sierra Club is proud to join with our partners in the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition and build on the immense success of the Future Energy Jobs Act which is already driving new job creation and training programs in disadvantaged communities and new clean energy investments particularly in downstate Illinois.”

Governor Pritzker Issues Executive Order Signing Illinois onto the U.S. Climate Alliance

Springfield, January 23, 2019 – This morning Governor JB Pritzker signed an executive order making Illinois the 18th state to join the U.S. Climate Alliance.

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

“By joining the US Climate Alliance as one of his first acts in office, Governor Pritzker is showing the world that, even though Donald Trump wants out of the clean energy economy, Illinois is all in. We can and must reach these climate goals, and we know we need to do so in a way that puts our workers and disadvantaged communities first. We know Governor Pritzker shares these values and can unite Illinois in planning for the 100% clean energy future we all want, and that starts today.”

“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

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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 http://www.illinois.sierraclub.org.

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 https://www.law.uchicago.edu/clinic

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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, kady.mcfadden@sierraclub.org, (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 www.sierraclub.org/illinois/vote.  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.

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Sierra Club, Senator Durbin endorse Kwame Raoul for Attorney General

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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.

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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 (www.elections.il.gov) or for purchase from the State Board of Elections, Springfield, IL