October 19, 2009

USEPA Blocks BP Refinery Expansion

Good news today on the clean energy front:
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today issued an objection to the operating permit for BP North America’s refinery in Whiting, IN that will require the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to rewrite the permit. The decision is a
victory for the citizens and environmental groups who petitioned EPA to
object to the permit in August 2008 on the grounds that it did not
accurately account for the large increases in dangerous air pollution that
would be caused by BP’s expansion of the refinery. The petition was
submitted by Environmental Law & Policy Center, Hoosier Environmental
Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, Save the Dunes Council, Sierra
Club, Susan Eleuterio and Tom Tsourlis.

BP began a major expansion of the Whiting Refinery in 2008 in order to
process dirty Canadian tar sands crude oil at the facility. The expansion
would make the refinery the largest refiner of tar sands oil in the U.S.
and would increase numerous traditional air pollutants like sulfur dioxide,
nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. In addition, the expansion would
create approximately as much new global warming pollution as a new 300-400
megawatt coal plant, about a forty percent increase from current refinery

BP’s permit application claimed the expansion would not increase pollution
because the company would offset the increased emissions by shutting down
some older equipment at the refinery at a later date. But the company
failed to take into account many distinct sources of pollution from the
refinery, including flares (the large torch-like tower structures that burn
excess gases from the refining process) and “fugitive emissions” from leaks
and other sources. EPA’s objection requires the Indiana Department of
Environmental Management to go back and redo the permit taking these
sources into account. In the case of flares, EPA also presented the option
of prohibiting all new and increased flaring emissions. This is the first
Title V decision from the EPA requiring that these pollution sources be
addressed in refinery permits, and stands as important direction-setting
for future projects.

October 15, 2009

Last Day to Give IDNR Your Advice

Here's a good story on the latest in IDNR's effort to engage the Illinois outdoor community in discussion about the future of the agency.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is only now beginning the long road to recovery after years of budget cuts, layoffs and park closures.

In the latest example of Gov. Pat Quinn-style electronic democracy, IDNR Director Marc Miller is asking outdoor enthusiasts to fill out an online survey to help find cures for what ails the agency. He's hoping for input in three areas:

-- How can IDNR get more people involved in outdoor recreation?

-- How can the agency boost public access to recreational opportunities in a state where 98 percent of the land is privately owned?

-- Where can the financially-strapped state find more cash to enhance conservation and recreation?

Visit http://dnr.state.il.us/nrab/cc.htm to take part.

The Conservation Congress will review the results at its upcoming meeting Oct. 24-25 at IDNR headquarters in Springfield. The congress is a grassroots citizen input structure originally put in place by Brent Manning, director of IDNR during what many view as the agency's golden age under Govs. Jim Edgar and George Ryan.

If you haven't yet filled out the survey, take 5 minutes today to do so - today is the last day it is online, to give the Department time to analyze the results before the Conservation Congress next weekend.

October 06, 2009

Cook County: Wheeling and Dealing With Our Preserves

This year the Chicago region is marking the 100th anniversary of Daniel Burnham's plan for Chicago that included a proposal for the Cook County forest preserve system, among other visionary features (like our open, green lakefront, to name another.)

Unfortunately, some on the Cook County board are prepared to mark the occasion by chipping away at the precious "emerald necklace" of forest preserves that rings Cook County and offers all of us a brief break from the pavement. On September 2nd, the Real Estate Committee of the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted to allow the clearing of 26 acres of Bemis Woods and to negotiate a long-term lease on the forest preserve property.

On Wednesday, the full Cook County Board will consider the Real Estate Committee's recommendation. Hundreds of Sierra Club members have been contacting their Commissioners, and we expect a close vote at the meeting. On Monday, the Chicago Tribune weighed in with a strong editorial against the proposal. If you live in Cook County, you can help keep our forest preserves intact by:

1) contacting your Cook County Commissioner and urging them to vote no on the lease at Wednesday's meeting; and
2) attending a Friends of the Forest Preserves rally Wednesday morning before the vote:

9 a.m. Wednesday, October 7,
outside of the County Board Room,
118 N. Clark St., 5th Floor

We are all the beneficiaries of visionaries like Burnham who planned and sacrificed so that we can enjoy these natural areas, and pass them on to future generations. In tough times like these, we especially need places nearby when our kids and all of us can experience nature, even if we can't afford to get out of town to bigger, more pristine parks and preserves far away.

Let's show the Cook County Board that these are not their preserves to be making deals with - they belong to all of us, and to the future.