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.


Anonymous said...

Just ask anyone who attended the Illinois Environmental Leadership Dinner in Chicago and heard all three candidates speak, Blagojevich is absolutely the wrong choice if you are concerned about the environment in Illinois. Rich Whitney, the Green Party's candidate for Illinois Governor, is a far superior choice!

Anonymous said...

The Sierra Club needs to stop refusing to endorse candidates that aren't members of the Democratic or Republican parties. The best candidate for Illinois Governor, with the strongest stance on their issues, is obviously Rich Whitney, the Green Party's candidate for Illinois governor. Instead, the Sierra Club decides to engage in partisan political campaign intervention by showing preference and bias for Democratic and Republican candidates. A good deal of environmentalists are upset about this, and there is now talk of them withdrawing their membership in the Sierra Club, in mass, and refusing to contribute until this stops.

Anonymous said...

You MUST be joking! Yes, Sierra Club members want clean air and water, but what about protecting and enhancing our natural resources?

The Sierra Club apparently doesn't remember or care that the Governor has eviscerated the Ill. Department of Natural Resources.
This was once a proud and highly motivated state agency, but the Governor appointed political hacks to run DNR and drove away dedicated staff, who had strong expertise in land management, public education and biodiversity. Now, our state parks are understaffed and mismanaged. Furthermore, the Governor tried to raid the state's land aquisition fund for other purposes.

Take off your blinders and look at the big picture. With this endorsement, the Sierra Club has sold its soul and is now part of the cronyism and insider games that make it difficult to reform the state's corrupt political system.

Anonymous said...

Let me try to get this straight. The Sierra Club is praising Governor Blagojevich because he is working to cut mercury emissions from existing coal-fired power plants in the state.

Sounds pretty good, until you realize Sierra Club is also appealing the air permits issued by the Governor’s environmental protection agency for the construction of several new coal-fired plants, arguing they will endanger public health and the environment.

The Governor is working hard to make coal king again, including providing generous subsidies that greatly exceed the state’s commitment to solar, wind and other renewable resources.

This endorsement sounds fishy to me. It’s time for Sierra Club’s leadership to stop playing footsy with the Governor and support the Green Party candidate, who truly believes in environmental protection and a more sustainable future for all Illinois residents.

Jack Darin said...

We definitely considered Whitney in our deliberations. Yes, I saw him at the IEC dinner, and I thought he did a fine job. I hope that his candidacy results in greater attention and coverage for environmental issues.
However, I think anyone looking at the record objectively would come to the conclusion the Gov. Blagojevich has accomplished more, by a wide margin, than any other candidate to protect the environment.

Jack Darin said...

I would agree that budget cuts have weakened IDNR. However, I would also point out that there would be ATVs roaring through our parks today if Blagojevich hadn't vetoed bills to let them in (that had passed by overwhelming margins), and that Topinka, as a legislator, voted to make the Department sacrifice prime natural areas for field dog trials.

We need a strong IDNR, and the work they do is critical to protecting our natural heritage. They began to weaken during the Ryan administration, through early retirments, and that trend continued until FY 07, when the Blagojevich administration began to hire more people at IDNR. We are confident that the worst is past and over time IDNR can regain its strength and be better than ever.

Jack Darin said...

Just because we are endorsing the Governor doesn't mean we agree 100% with every decision made by every state agency. We haven't made any secret about our opposition to two major new pulverized coal plant proposals (Peabody and Indeck) backed by the State.

Let's face it, Illinois is a major coal state. Every Governor in modern history has made coal development a priority. Occasionally, Governors have simultaneously tried to address the major air pollution consequences of coal burning, creating an inherent tension.

While Blagojevich is not the first Illinois Governor to promote coal development, he is the first to take on the utilities that burn coal to demand significant reductions. We also note that his future energy plans do not focus on pulverized coal, but instead on gasified coal. Gasified coal is not yet a proven technology, but it is certainly cleaner than pulverized, and there is at least the possibility that the carbon emissions can be sequestered.

Anonymous said...

Well that does it. I have lost all respect for the Sierra Club. Good luck with your Blagojevich endorsement! You guys are just scared to support Whitney because you're trying to be on the "winning team."

Anonymous said...

Before voting, Sierra Club members might want to google Sam Flood, who was appointed by the Governor to be the acting director of the state department of natural resources. Pay particular attention to the articles that appeared in the Illinois Times and the Bellville News Democrat. You'll see that DNR is being run by a political operative. We need Rich Whitney to help clean up the mess in Illinois government and restore integrity to DNR.

Anonymous said...

I applaud the Sierra Club for the decision to endorse the Governor. I, too, was at the IEC dinner. Topinka, who has a well documented poor record on the environment, was unnecessarily negative. We can expect even worse things from her with the debt she would owe the Bush Administration after this election.

As for Whitney, for those who want to vote for someone with has no chance, please remember that Ralph Nader voters helped to give us the Bush Administration.

Anonymous said...


Glad that you can endorse the guy mentioned in the article above. Not!

P.S. Nader didn't hurt Gore in 2000. Gore lost the election on his own. To wit:

First, he's a DLC "new Democrat."
Second, Gore did nothing to prevent Nader from being labeled as a
spoiler in 2000, despite that Al From, chair of the Democratic
Leadership Council, wrote in Blueprint Magazine (1-24-01) that
according to their own exit polls, Bush would have beat Gore by one
percentage point if Nader hadn't run in 2000.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle "Twelve percent of Florida
Democrats (over 200,000) voted for Republican George Bush" in 2000.
If even one percent of these Democrats had stuck with their own
candidate, Al Gore would easily have won Florida and become president.
In addition, half of all registered Democrats did not even bother
going to the polls and voting. Who is to blame here?

Bush beat Al Gore in Florida by 543 votes. Every third-party
candidate received more than 543 votes (Reform 17,484 | Libertarian
16,415 | Natural Law 2,281 | Workers World 1,804 | Constitution 1,371
| Socialist 622 | Socialist Workers 562) and Nader energized many new
voters, who would have not otherwise voted and certainly would not
have not have voted for Gore. The spoiler argument is dishonest.

The Democratic leadership, including Gore, was aware of reforms like
Instant Runoff Voting, which would have eliminated the spoiler effect,
long before 2000; but they ignored the problem. Even after the 2000
election, what have they done to address this issue? Because they
have the tools needed to solve this problem; yet they refuse to act,
obviously the "spoiler" effect can't be that much of a real problem.

I have seen Al Gore's record, and I am not impressed.


Anonymous said...

The Peabody Energy Corporation, the world's largest coal company, recently had a big party to celebrate the road and infrastructure work that has begun at the site of its brand new spanking coal-burning power plant. This massive 1,600-megawatt plant will be built in Washington County near St. Louis.

Governor Blagojevich was the special guest of honor at the event. He praised the new power plant and brought a government check, totaling a whopping $422,500, to help defray the cost of connecting the plant to the power grid. The Sierra Club and local environmentalists issued a written statement, saying the plant would dump 12 million tons of global warming pollution into the air – the equivalent of adding 2.2 million cars onto highways – each year.

Meanwhile, the Green Party nominee, Rich Whitney, is campaigning hard to make renewable energy like wind and solar the top priority for addressing the state’s growing energy needs. Among other things, he wants to pass a state law that would require power companies to get 22 percent of their electricity supply from renewable resources by 2020. The best the Governor can do is to lobby his commerce commission to adopt a feeble plan that would encourage utilities to get 8 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2012. The Governor’s “pretty please” plan is not binding, but rather a voluntary goal.

How could the Sierra Club endorse the Governor when an environmentally superior candidate is on the ballot? New polling data show that Whitney is gaining ground on both Blagojevich and Topinka. People are growing tired of the political combine that runs this state.

The Sierra Club is suppose to be a progressive organization that believes in grassroots, participatory democracy. Not exactly the hallmark of the Blagojevich Administration, with its emphasis on "pay to play."

What were you thinking?