January 22, 2010

Latest MWRD Excuse For Not Making the Chicago River Safe: Global Warming

Today's Tribune article demonstrates the lengths the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District will go to keep open the giant loophole that allows them to deny Chicagoans the same protection the give suburban residents - killing dangerous pathogens in their effluent before they dump it in the Chicago River system.

MWRD disinfects the treated water they discharge to the DuPage River system, but is spending taxpayer dollars fighting the State of Illinois' attempts to make them clean up their act. The City of Chicago, the Illinois Attorney General, and a coalition of environmental, health, and recreation advocates also support cleanup.

The Tribune has the latest in MWRD's campaign to maintain the status quo:
Engineers with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago recently completed an in-house study of its carbon footprint at the request of the elected board of commissioners. Going beyond the assignment, they also decided to look at how the footprint would change if it had to kill bacteria in sewage before pouring it into the Chicago River.

Starting to disinfect the wastewater — a change the 120-year-old agency has long opposed — would bolster the district's greenhouse gas emissions and thereby cause more bad than good, they concluded.

"With additional treatment, you have to weigh how much water quality is actually being accomplished with more harm to the environment in another way," said Louis Kollias, the director of the district's Monitoring and Research Department. "You're going to have to have it one way or the other. You can't have both."
Obviously reducing your carbon footprint is a good idea, for lots of reasons. Other local governments are doing that by buying renewable energy instead of dirty power, That's how the State of Illinois, the cities of Chicago and Springfield, and many others are doing.

I know of no efforts by MWRD to buy wind or solar power instead of coal. Instead, they plan for second-class sewage treatment? Are they looking at turning off disinfection in the suburbs, to save on energy costs?

This would all be funny if it weren't putting people at risk. And it is hardly a joke that MWRD is wasting our property tax dollars on lawyers and PR schemes like this, all supposedly in the name of cost effectiveness.

Consider it the latest reason to make smart choices when you vote for MWRD Commissioner February 2nd. Sierra Club's recommendations are here.

January 06, 2010

Manny Flores: A Clean Energy Champion for the ICC

This week Gov. Quinn nominated Chicago Ald. Manny Flores to be the new Chair of the Illinois Commerce Commission. If confirmed by the Illinois Senate, this is great news for everyone who stands to gain (and that means all of us) by moving to a new energy economy in Illinois.

Flores has been an environmental champion on the Chicago City Council, working to create green jobs in the city, promote clean energy, and remove toxic chemicals from consumer products. The Illinois Commerce Commission has not historically been considered a major environmental policymaking authority, but they are now squarely in the middle of major decisions about our energy future, including questions such as:

-Will we meet our target of 25% renewable energy by 2025? Can we exceed it, or reach it faster?
-Will we maximize efforts to cut utility bills by saving energy?
-Will we create the maximum number of new Illinois jobs in the process?

All this makes it perfect timing to have a clean energy leader take the helm at the ICC.

Here's an excerpt from a conversation I had with Flores about clean energy in November - when he attended a USEPA hearing on regulating global warming pollution. He talks about the imperative of moving now to participate in the new economy, and of a recent trip to South Korea, which is heading that way.

Hopefully the Illinois Senate, which itself has done a great deal in recent years to move Illinois to a clean energy future, will quickly confirm Flores.