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

A Brighter Future for Chicago and Illinois Waterways

chicagor1-19-17Today Sierra Club and partners celebrate a milestone agreement with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) to address nutrient pollution impacts in Chicago’s rivers and downstream waters. With guidance from representatives of the environmental groups and the Illinois EPA, MWRD will develop a plan over the next seven years designed to address excessive plant and algae growth in Chicago Area waterways.

Too many nutrients in our waterways, especially phosphorus from wastewater discharges and combined sewer overflows, fuel the overgrowth of aquatic plants and algae that in turn suck needed oxygen out of the waters. Chicago’s waterways have seen a remarkable recovery in diversity of fish and other aquatic life as water quality has improved in recent years, but further recovery is hampered by excessive plant/algae growth.

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Algae and plants in the North Shore Channel

 As a backstop to the to-be-developed plan, MWRD has agreed to further cut phosphorus discharges from its three large Chicago wastewater treatment plants to 0.5 mg/L by 2030, if a more stringent limit is not developed by then. MWRD will also study what it will take to reduce its phosphorus discharges to the even lower levels (as low as 0.1 mg/L) that some plants elsewhere in the nation are already meeting.  MWRD has already demonstrated its ability to find innovative ways to pull phosphorus out of its wastewater and has created a marketable fertilizer product with the addition last year of the world’s largest nutrient recovery system at its Stickney plant.

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Algae in the Illinois River

Understanding the impacts of nutrients on algae and plant growth and oxygen levels in our waterways requires good data. To that end, MWRD has also agreed to sponsor a water quality monitoring station on the Des Plaines River in Joliet for the next four years. It will continuously measure levels of nitrates, phosphorus, oxygen, and chlorophyll along with other basic parameters. At the same time, Illinois EPA will monitor chlorophyll and oxygen levels and basic parameters downstream in the Marseilles, Starved Rock and Peoria pools on the Illinois River. If, as we expect, it is found that serious problems are being caused by phosphorus in the lower Des Plaines and Illinois rivers, a watershed committee will be formed to address those problems.

Just 10 years ago, Chicago’s rivers were largely treated as a watery sacrifice zone. We didn’t require these waterways to meet the levels of cleanliness we set for other waters in the state. MWRD did not disinfect its wastewater, despite the growing number of people out paddling and rowing. The effort to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSOs) was uncertain, with completion of the Deep Tunnel project to capture and treat CSOs long-delayed and not mandated. Now MWRD disinfects its wastewater at all but the Stickney plant (we hope that is to come in the near future). They are busy working on green infrastructure
projects— such as the
Space to Grow program that converts paved schoolyards into beautiful playgrounds and gardens that also soak up rain and snow. They completed the Thornton reservoir in 2015 which can store 7.9 billion gallons. Both green and gray infrastructure projects are needed measures to reduce CSOs.

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Chapter Director Jack Darin addressing the MWRD Commissioners on partnering to implement the agreement.

It has never been more important that local governments and states show leadership in protecting our waters and investing in clean water infrastructure.  With this agreement, MWRD is setting an example of that leadership and we are excited to partner with them on this work in the years to come.

With progress being made on disinfection and CSOs, this agreement to address nutrient pollution is the third critical initiative needed for a brighter future for Chicago’s waterways. As we modernize our area’s water infrastructure, we also create good jobs, boosting our local economy along with the cleaner rivers that will also draw people and businesses. Today’s announcement sets the stage for Chicago’s rivers to truly become Chicago’s second great waterfront, where people will increasingly want to work and play.

See our joint statement with MWRD on this step forward for clean water.

See our press release on this agreement which settles two Clean Water Act legal cases we brought with our environmental partners to address MWRD’s phosphorus pollution.

Read NRDC’s blog if you’d like more detail on the history of the legal cases and the elements of this historic agreement.

Illinois Acts To Require Testing For Schools & Daycares

Today the Illinois General Assembly passed Senate Bill 550, which will require testing for lead contamination in Illinois elementary schools and daycares.  Sierra Club volunteers worked over the last year to educate lawmakers about the risks of lead contamination to children’s health, and to support the new testing requirement.
Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter Director made this statement:

“We applaud the hard work of State Senator Heather Steans and State Representative Sonya Harper to better protect Illinois children from lead in their drinking water.  Lead can poison a child’s brain leading to developmental problems, and we need to be doing more to protect our kids everywhere they drink water, but particularly at school and in daycare.  Now parents, schools, and daycares will have the facts they need to make sure our schools are places of learning, not poisoning.
It has never been more important that states lead in protecting our environment and ensuring our infrastructure is safe.  We applaud Attorney General Lisa Madigan for her strong advocacy for this legislation and for our children, and the Illinois Environmental Council for working with all parties to reach this important agreement.”

Illinois Acts On Climate

We just did something truly historic in Illinois, at a time when we needed it most.

Here in the industrial heartland, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner today signed the Future Energy Jobs Bill, which will slash carbon emissions from the electric sector in half by 2030. In the face of a Trump presidency, we just took an ambitious leap forward to address the urgent threat of climate disruption.

This remarkable feat did not happen overnight; in fact, it took two years of hard work on behalf of Sierra Club’s grassroots volunteers across the state of Illinois, working shoulder to shoulder with our allies in the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition.

Over the past two  years, clean energy advocates made countless lobby visits, made thousands of calls, sent tens of thousands of letters and petitions, and built a grassroots movement to win broad, bipartisan support for getting strong renewable energy policy for Illinois. After tough negotiations with other stakeholders, we emerged successfully, locking in our huge clean energy priorities into the Future Energy Jobs Bill. As a result, we will build enough wind and solar to power 1 million homes over the next decade, and our state’s major utilities must reduce our reliance on dirty fuels with $6 billion in new energy conservation programs.

Communities from across Illinois came together around equitable, smart and inclusive clean energy policy, and that’s where we scored some of our biggest wins. The Future Energy Jobs Bill will include:

  • At least 4.3 gigawatts of new Illinois wind and solar power – as much capacity as two nuclear power plants and two coal plants combined
  • Requirements that Ameren and ComEd, Illinois utilities,  invest $6 billion in energy efficiency over the next decade
  • A new Illinois Solar for All program that will invest up to $400 million in new solar projects in economically disadvantaged communities, and train those most in need of good jobs in the clean energy technologies of the future.

These are huge leaps forward for clean energy, but the Future Energy Jobs Bill was also a compromise that includes ratepayer support for two nuclear power plants. To be clear, the Sierra Club remains opposed to nuclear power, and we do not consider nuclear to be clean energy.  While we fought for our clean energy priorities, we strongly opposed Exelon’s proposed “Low Carbon Portfolio Standard,” which would have subsidized all of Exelon’s six nuclear reactors, to the exclusion of renewable power. We defeated that proposal, and championed the Illinois Clean Jobs bill as a much better alternative. However, after nearly two years, legislative leaders and the Governor convened all stakeholders with the directive to agree on a single, comprehensive energy proposal. We fought and won to make renewable energy and energy efficiency the cornerstones of the compromise legislation, and of Illinois’ energy future.  

Our work is not over until the state is powered by 100% clean energy. With the ramp up in wind, solar, and energy efficiency required by this bill, Illinois will be ready to replace our nuclear and coal plants with truly clean power when they retire.

Today, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we continue our work to reduce dangerous carbon pollution, support opportunities for family-sustaining jobs in Illinois’ energy economy, continue the shift away from coal, gas and nuclear and ensure that clean energy opportunity is prioritized for communities burdened for decades by pollution.

With federal climate action uncertain, it is more important than ever that states act decisively on climate change, and the Sierra Club’s incredible grassroots network worked hard to ensure that Illinois did just that.

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!

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.