June 28, 2007

House sends iSPACE resolution to Blagojevich

The Illinois House today approved, 107-0, a joint resolution in support of iSPACE. It had been adopted by the Senate, so now goes to the Governor and the leaders negotiating the budget, calling for $100 million annually in new conservation land acquisition funding.

Legislators are about to take a break for the 4th of July holiday, and will return the week of July 9th to resume budget talks. If you see yours over the break, ask them for an update!

June 26, 2007

GOP Loses Solid Conservationist

I sincerely hope that Paul Froehlich's switch from Republican to Democrat, announced today, has more to do with the political issues cited in news coverage than with his strong, pro-environment voting record.

I am sure Froehlich will continue to support environmental protection as a Democrat, just as he did as a Republican. That's because he casts his votes based on the facts and the will of his constituents, and his partisan affiliation doesn't affect either.

The American conservation and environmental movement has historically had support from Republican leaders at critical times, whether it was Teddy Roosevelt protecting many of the public lands we enjoy today, or Richard Nixon overseeing the enactment of our modern environmental laws and agencies.

Here in Illinois, Republican legislators are a critical part of the growing bloc that is increasingly making our state a leader in environmental protection. Representatives Winters, Biggins, Coulson, Mulligan, Krause, Bassi, Tryon, Fortner, Pihos, Lindner, Cole, and Pritchard, and Senators Cronin, Althoff, Radogno, Peterson, and Dillard are among those who have been supportive of smart energy solutions, cleaner air, cleaner water, and protecting natural areas for future generations. (My apologies to any I missed - this is a quick list off the top of my head just to give you an idea.)

These numbers have been growing in recent years (as they have in the Democratic caucuses). For those of us who work for clean air and water, and all of us who value it, let's hope that trend keeps moving in the right direction. It makes for good public policy, and good politics as voters increasingly choose pro-environment candidates from both parties.

June 08, 2007

iSPACE in the Souhern today

Nice column in the Southern Illinoisan today on iSPACE.

Les Winkeler writes:

"Illinois is ranked last among Midwestern states in state-owned protected lands. And, with the state's recent economic downturn, funding for land acquisition has decreased about 80 percent over the past few years.

The current legislation, co-sponsored by Reps. Mike Bost and Brandon Phelps, calls for $100 million in new funding. The funding would be designated for land acquisition, provide management grants and support the implementation of the Hunting Heritage Protection Act."

June 07, 2007

IL House Backs iSPACE

Today the Illinois House adopted HJR 55, sponsored by State Rep. Harry Osterman (D-Chicago), calling for the inclusion of $100 million in new conservation funding in any capital budget. The Senate adopted an identical resolution last week.

So no state budget deal this week, but another strong showing of support for including the iSPACE (Illinois Special Places Conservation, Acquisition, and Enhancement) program in the final deal.

June 05, 2007

Part of the Solution, or Part of the Problem?

Tenaska, Inc. is planning to build the largest new source of carbon dioxide in Illinois near Taylorville. The 630MW coal fired power plant, as currently planned, would add approximately four million tons of carbon dioxide to Illinois’ carbon dioxide emissions annually, the same amount of global warming pollution as 500,000 cars, per year for each of the next fifty years.

Governor Blagojevich has set a statewide goal of reducing global warming pollution to 60% below 1990 levels by 2050 - the level that science tells us we must reach to slow global warming. Renewable energy and energy efficiency programs will be a major part of this strategy. Illinois coal can also be a part of the solution if new plants are linked to major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Last year in Springfield, just up the road from Taylorville, City Water Light and Power (CWLP) was planning to build a 200MW power plant for their city customers. We worked with CWLP to forge an agreement to offset the plant’s carbon dioxide emissions through a creative package of programs, including purchasing 120MW of wind power, and investing $400,000 into a city wide energy efficiency program.

So far, this has not been the case with the Tenaska project. Tenaska does not have a plan to deal with the massive increases in global warming pollution that would come from their plant. Such a plan could include offsetting carbon emissions through retiring existing, dirtier plants, investing in renewables or efficiency, or potentially sequestering their carbon underground, although there are still many questions about the viability of carbon sequestration.

Tenaska could be a part of the solution, and put forward a plan that gives Illinois and the planet less, not millions of tons more, carbon dioxide. We are willing to work with them to develop such a plan. If Springfield and their local utility can do it, surely a large corporation like Tenaska can do it.