January 18, 2006

Blagojevich Highlights Clean Air Initiatives in State of State Speech

Some pundits may dismiss Blagojevich's State of the State speech today as campaign hot air, but the Governor did have some strong words to say about clean air in the address to lawmakers today.

The mercury reduction and fuel-efficient vehicle programs plugged in today's speech would make a big difference for health and air quality. It's good to see the Gov. giving these two environmental initiatives priority placement in his agenda for 2006.

Both programs received decent applause from the gallery and from Democrats in the chamber. A few Republicans, who were mostly quiet throughout the speech, applauded the mercury intiative, and a few more the clean car program.

Reporters seem mostly interested in reporting this as a campaign story, but perhaps some of the substance will come through in stories this week.

For more information, see here.

January 12, 2006

Blagojevich Offers $500 To Clean Car Buyers

Gov. Blagojevich today announced a proposal to offer a $500 sales tax credit, effective July 1st, to Illinoisans who buy hybrid and other fuel-efficient cars. The proposal requires approval by the General Assembly.

The Governor is having quite a good environmental week. A week ago, he proposed strong rules to cut mercury pollution from coal plants. Earler this week, he issued an executive order aimed at stepping up research and planning efforts to better manage drinking water supplies across the state.

Today's proposal, if enacted, would save more drivers more money at the pump, and cut air pollution levels as cars that go farther on a gallon of gas also put less out the tailpipe. I don't know about you, but a $500 discount on a new car could be enough to make me choose a hybrid if I weren't otherwise inclined to do so.

A similar federal tax credit, one of the very few notable environmental policy improvements of the Bush Administration, expires at the end of this year, so the proposal comes at a good time.

The proposal is structured to offer the $500 incentive to any vehicle that gets 35 mpg CITY, or 25 mpg CITY that can run on an alternative fuel, such as 85% ethanol or biodiesel.

Good going, Guv. The policy makes sense, and I would think it stands a decent chance of winning legislative approval, given the broad demand for fuel-efficient cars and high gas prices.

January 06, 2006

Too Expensive To Protect Our Kids' Brains?

It's beginning to look like Illinois' biggest mercury polluters are going to argue that protecting children's brains and nervous system is too expensive for them. See this story in today's Chicago Tribune:


If so then they must only care about their own pocketbooks, because the rest of us are the ones paying because they haven't cleaned up their act. A Mt. Sinai study released last year estimated that mercury contamination costs at least $8.7 billion annually in health care costs and decreased productivity due to kids brains and nervous systems being damaged by mercury. (See http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/press/030205.html)

Also, what's the impact on Illinois' fishing and tourism industry due to the health warning now attached to every river and lake in Illinois due to mercury pollution? How many more people would spend their vacation and recreation dollars fishing in Illinois if it were safe to feed their catch to their families?

Most public health problems are difficult to solve because there are usually many contributing factors that are hard to get a handle on. This is a case where most of the Illinois mercury pollution comes out of 22 smokestacks, and the technology to shut most of it off is readily available.

It's time to do it.

Governor Blagojevich announcing his mercury reduction plan Thursday at Navy Pier in Chicago.

January 05, 2006

Blagojevich Proposes Deep Cuts In Mercury Pollution

Governor Blagojevich today is announcing a strong proposal to require Illinois’ coal-fired power plants to install pollution controls to reduce the levels of toxic mercury they put into Illinois’ air and water. Blagojevich’s plan would require Illinois coal plants to reduce mercury pollution by 90% by 2009.

The proposal will not only protect the health of Illinois children, it will also set an example for America to follow in addressing a major public health problem.

Mercury from coal-fired power plants ends up in lakes, rivers, and oceans, and certain species of fish accumulate dangerous levels of the toxic metal in their muscle tissue. When people eat these fish, they are exposed to potentially harmful levels of mercury. The Illinois Department of Public Health has issued a warning about the dangers of eating large predator fish from all Illinois waters due to statewide mercury pollution.

The Bush Administration has proposed substantially weaker pollution controls that could allow Illinois coal plants to delay or even entirely avoid installing pollution controls. Governor Blagojevich and Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit against the Bush Administration’s proposal in April of 2005.

Mothers and women hoping to have children shouldn't have to worry that by eating fish or feeding it to their kids they could be doing permanent damage to a child's brain. The technology to protect our kids is available, affordable, and it’s time we put it on these smokestacks. Will Illinois power plants will heed Gov. Blagojevich's call to clean up their act and protect our children's health?

Obviously we're not betting on that. We expect a full attack on the proposal when the Illinois Pollution Control Board takes it up in the weeks and months ahead.