April 27, 2005

Blagojevich Challenges Federal Mercury Pollution Rule

Great to see Governor Blagojevich announcing today that he plans to work with Attorney General Madigan to sue over the proposal by the Bush Administration to weaken limits on mercury pollution from coal-burning power plants.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has issued a statewide warning about the dangers of eating large fish from every water in the state. The biggest risk is to unborn children, so women of child-bearing age are warned to limit their consumption of large predator fish like bass, walleye, etc. Mercury is toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 1 in 6 babies born in America now are believed to suffer some damage due to mercury exposure.

Illinois EPA disappointed clean air advocates last year by passing on an opportunity to set strong state limits on coal plant pollution, saying they needed to wait to see where the federal government was going. In his State of the State address, Blagojevich announced that he would be urging other Midwest governors to join him in adopting proposals stronger than the Bush administration. Hopefully today's announcement is a strong indication that stronger health safeguards are on the way to better protect Illinoisans, and especially children.

The Governor's release is at:

April 25, 2005

Staying Warm By Doing Good

Thank you to everyone who braved the wintry conditions Saturday to turn out at one of our Sierra Club Service Day events around the state. From the Shawnee National Forest to the Cook County Forest Preserves, we were impressed by the turnout amidst the cold, wind, clouds, and snow flurries.

At least 300 people turned out and helped pull exotic weeds, pick up trash, clean up an old dumpsite, fix a popular trail, and plant native prairie plants. People seemed energized to make a positive contribution locally, especially after recent bad news from Washington about drilling the Arctic, weakening the Clean Air Act, and the House passing an energy bill last week focused on coal, oil, and nuclear power.

The Chicago Tribune mentioned us in a story about the cold weather.
It’s at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chicago/chi-0504240394apr24,1,4359803.story?coll=chi-newslocalchicago-hed

April 24, 2005

Catholic Conservation Conclave

Saturday I spoke at the Ecology Day conference of the Joliet Diocese of the Catholic Church. It was inspiring to talk to Catholics from parishes in 7 counties south and west of Chicago about opportunities for congregations to help protect creation.

Obviously Pope John Paul II will be remembered for many things, but hopefully his respect for creation and call for Catholics to protect it will be among them. See here for the late Holy Father on the hiking trail, and some powerful statements about the importance of environmental protection, see:


People of faith are a fundamental pillar of the environmental movement. In fact, it’s hard to think of an important social change movement in history that wasn’t strongly supported, if not led, by religious leaders and individuals. The growing consciousness of the importance of being good stewards of creation across denonominations can only help.

April 22, 2005

Happy Earth Day!

Today is the 35th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970. For those of us working to protect the environment, we hear a lot of bad news about the state of our air, water, and habitats. Earth Day is a good day to look back and acknowledge all the progress that we’ve made since 1970.

Here’s a short list of major Illinois victories to be proud of:

-No more dangerous levels of lead in Chicago’s air
-New parks and refuges like the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
-No more nutrient pollution of Lake Michigan
-No more garbage incineration in Illinois
-Once-endangered populations of species like the Bald Eagle and the River Otter returning to healthy levels
-Going from a statewide recycling rate of virtually zero to 37%

And the list goes on.

Not a bad record of accomplishment, and many people and institutions share the credit - citizens for changing behavior and subsidizing government programs; business for investing in pollution controls.

Also crucial to this progress has been a partnership between the state and federal government. Generally the federal government sets minimum standards and the states ensure that they are met in the most efficient way.

Now this partnership is in trouble. The Bush Administration is proposing to weaken key requirements of the Clean Air Act, and has stopped protecting over half of Illinois’ remaining wetlands. Congress is poised to pass an energy policy that subsidizes oil, nuclear, and coal companies.

It used to be that states like Illinois were forced to protect the environment, or face the threat of the feds coming down on them and revoking their authority. Increasingly, however, Illinois needs to protect our air and water because it’s the right thing for our health and for the future, not merely a requirement of federal law.

Our leaders – Governor Blagojevich, Attorney General Madigan, and the General Assembly now, more than ever, are responsible for making our air and water safe.

In this space, we’ll talk about efforts to upgrade Illinois’ environmental protection policies. I’ll highlight the work that Sierra Club volunteers are doing around Illinois to build support for environmental protection, and pass on opportunities for new people to get involved. During legislative session, we’ll have updates from the Capitol on pollution control and conservation legislation. We’ll talk about the intersection of politics and the environment as we head into a big election year in 2006.

I welcome your comments and your input. And, at least for today, be proud of what we’ve all done so far.

Jack Darin