October 17, 2006

Black Crown Marsh - One That Didn't Get Away

Monday I attended an event to announce the acquisition of Black Crown Marsh near the Lake-McHenry county line. The key purchase finlized last week was the IDNR buying 113 acres that used to be a private hunting club. The tract is home to nine threatened or endangered bird species, and features high quality wetlands, wooded areas, and rolling terrain.

The area around the Marsh is under severe development pressure, of course, and most of the woods and wetlands in the area seemed to have for sale signs in them. Event as we stood to celebrate the purchase with the protect landscape behind us, off in another direction heavy construction equipment could be seen finishing scraping the topsoil off of an adjacent parcel, soon to be another subdivision.

But that won't happen to Black Crown Marsh, thanks to the State of Illinois, which ponied up close to $5 million for the purchase, and its partners in the deal, the Lake County Forest Preserve District, and Corlands, a nonprofit land protection organization. Thanks to their efforts and their dollars, the residents of those new subdivisions, and the entire region, will have a beautiful piece of Illinois' natural heritage to enjoy.

October 09, 2006

Blagojevich the Right Choice To Protect Illinois' Environment

Illinois’ air and water are cleaner today because of the work Governor Blagojevich has done to take on the polluters, and promote solutions to environmental problems. Sierra Club acknowledged this record of achievement with our endorsement Sunday.

This is exactly the kind of leadership that Illinois needs in the years ahead, when we face major choices about air, water, land, and energy policies. Illinois will decide whether or not we take serious action to combat global warming, whether we make smart, clean energy choices, whether we protect our drinking water supplies, and whether we protect our last remaining wetlands, prairies, and forests.

Unfortunately Washington has been making the wrong choices. Congress and the Bush Administration choose to keep subsidizing big oil, and to keep shortchanging renewable energy. Washington chooses to go slow and easy on pollution controls on coal-burning power plants, despite clear evidence that their mercury, smog, and soot emissions are hurting our children and many others. The U.S. Supreme Court has left most of Illinois’ remaining wetlands open to destruction, despite the fact that we count on them to protect us from floods, protect our drinking water, and provide a home for wildlife.

Washington isn’t helping, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do better. We can do better, and under Governor Blagojevich, we have been doing better.

Under Governor Blagojevich, Illinois has done better at cleaning up air pollution. After the Bush Administration proposed going slow on installing mercury pollution controls on coal plants, Illinois is poised to require a 90% reduction of mercury by 2009 – by far the strongest response of any state. Three years ago, there were 11 hospital waste incinerators burning across our state, putting mercury, dioxin, and other pollutants into our air. Since Governor Blagojevich called on them to shut down, all but one of them has, and the last may close soon – a remarkable achievement.

Illinois is taking major steps toward a smart energy future, where consumers are protected against rate shocks, our air and water are cleaner, and new jobs are created in clean energy businesses. Governor Blagojevich has proposed a requirement that 10% of Illinois’ electricity come from wind power by 2015. He has led by example by pledging to power the buildings under his control in Springfield exclusively by wind energy. His energy plan includes provisions to encourage cellulosic ethanol development, and energy efficiency programs to save consumers and businesses money by saving energy.

Illinois is doing more to keep our drinking water clean and ensure that we have enough for everyone. Under Governor Blagojevich, Illinois has moved to control phosphorus pollution, which threatens drinking water and wildlife across our state. Illinois is also moving to make sure that we have enough ground and surface water for drinking, for agriculture, for industry, and for wildlife.

Finally, Illinois is serious about addressing the threats posed by global warming. While top scientists tell us we may only have ten years to do something about global warming before it becomes irreversible, Washington has their head in the sand and their hand out to special interests. With as little as ten years to reverse this problem, we can’t wait for change in Washington, we need to start now here in Illinois. This week the Governor announced the first step in a major effort to combat climate change, beginning with a commitment to reduce state government’s emissions of global warming pollution. Illinois is the first state in the Midwest to make that commitment. We know that Governor Blagojevich is committed to developing a comprehensive program to reduce Illinois’ contribution to global warming by regulating carbon emissions. We look forward to working with him and his team to come up with a solution that works best for Illinois.

The Sierra Club endorsement is a hard one to get. We do not make an endorsement in every race, but only the ones in which we find a candidate who truly shares our values, and who is willing to put the public’s interest in a clean environment above the special interests that too often dominate our politics. We do not endorse the lesser of two evils, we choose the strongest of champions. Four years ago, Governor Blagojevich became the first Illinois Governor to be endorsed by the Sierra Club, and we are proud to announce that he has earned our support again, and the support of all Illinois voters who value clean air, clean water, and Illinois’ natural heritage.

I have been working my whole adult life to encourage the State of Illinois to take strong action to protect our environment. Historically, Illinois has lagged behind – too often the goal would be to do the least we could to comply with the law Under Governor Blagojevich, however, Illinois a is emerging as a national leader in promoting innovative solutions to environmental problems. We no longer ask “what’s the least we can do”, and instead ask “what’s the best we can do.”

The people of Illinois want clean air and clean water. They know that our old energy policies have given them high prices, high pollution levels, and threats to our national security. They are hungry for solutions. Over the last four years, Governor Blagojevich has been working to promote those solutions, and Sierra Club is proud to recommend him to pro-environment voters across Illinois.