August 28, 2007

Clean Energy Bill Now Law!

The major new clean energy programs signed into law today by Governor Blagojevich are two major steps forward toward a cleaner, safer, and more affordable energy future for Illinois. After decades of dealing with the pollution and cost of relying solely on dirty coal and nuclear power, Illinois is now a national leader in promoting clean, renewable energy, and in helping consumer and businesses cut their electric bills by using less power.

The new requirement that 25% of Illinois’ electricity will come from renewable sources by the year 2025 will create new jobs in a pollution-free power industry. At the same time, utilities, the State of Illinois, and local governments will begin major new programs to reduce existing power use. By 2015, these programs are to cut existing power use 2% below today's levels. These conservation programs will deliver savings each and every month as our homes and businesses use less power. They will also create high-paying jobs in a clean, new energy economy.

By using less power overall, and by getting more and more of it from pollution-free sources like wind, Illinois is also taking two big steps to reducing our contribution to global warming. Scientists tell us that we need to reduce pollution by 80% to solve global warming, and that energy efficiency and renewable energy are the two most effective strategies for reaching these goals.

Historically, Illinois has lagged behind in implementing smart energy policies. Today, we move from the back of the pack to the head of the class in implementing smart energy policies for the future. This is one area where our leaders have agreed on major changes that are the right choices for Illiniosans today, and for our future.

August 24, 2007

BP: Put It in the Permit, Not Just the Press Release

We welcome BP's "promise" today to "not make use of the higher discharge limits" recently granted them by the State of Indiana. This is a welcome first step that BP has, perhaps belatedly, realized how much the people of this region love and depend on Lake Michigan, our Great Lake.

We now challenge BP to make this commitment not just in a press release, but in the legally binding permit they will operate under. That is the only way that the 12 million people who relay on Lake Michigan for drinking water will know for sure that the Clean Water Act will be there to enforce BP's new promise. Fixing the permit to require better pollution controls would add penalties if they fail to make good on this new commitment. That is the strongest guarantee that the people of this region can have that their water will get the best protection.

Every day Sierra Club works with other ammonia dischargers, mostly local governments on a strict budget, in this region to help them reduce their ammonia discharges to protect area waters. We stand ready to help BP identify solutions to help them avoid increasing ammonia discharges to the Lake. We are confident that if cash-strapped communities in Illinois can do it, so can BP.

Putting the promise in the permit will give this welcome new commitment the force of law. It will also erase the bad precedent the State of Indiana set by granting the original permit, and raise the bar for other industrial polluters around our Great Lake.

Put the promise in the permit, not just the press release.

August 15, 2007

Summit on BP Pollution Proposal

I participated in a summit today at USEPA regional headquarters in Chicago on BP's proposal to increase pollution to Lake Michigan as part of their Whiting refinery expansion.

At the summit, there were many good ideas about how BP can do better - from citizen groups, the City of Chicago, and others. BP and Indiana didn't accept the recommendations, or commit to accepting them if they prove to be workable, but they didn't rule them out, either.

The closer we look at BP's proposal the more questions we have. I asked BP today about their mercury emissions, both directly into the lake in their wastewater, and through the air as part of a sludge incinerator they were operating on the property. They weren't prepared to answer that, but ultimately announced that they closed the incinerator in February of this year. If that's true, that is probably a postive step, although they didn't say where the sludge is going now.

Congressman Rahm Emmanuel did a great job of making crystal clear how angry and exercised the public and their elected officials are about this. He said that Lake Michigan is "our Grand Canyon, our Yellowstone," and claimed that BP wasn't being totally honest with the public about their reasons for avoiding full treatment of their effluent.

Unless BP wants to undo all the work they have done, and money they have spent, to build their image as a green company, at least in this major market, one has to believe they will soon come to their senses and adopt some of the promising alternatives that are coming forward from a variety of sources.