Saturday, November 04, 2006

Thinking of Going Green on Tuesday? Think Again

An Open Letter To Fellow Illinois Environmentalists

We will have three choices for Governor when we go into the voting booth on Tuesday. We all know, however, that when all is said and done Tuesday night, either Rod Blagojevich or Judy Barr Topinka will have been elected Governor of Illinois for the next four years.

I agree with much of the platform of the Illinois Green Party, and as a fellow environmentalist, I’m sure you do too. I also believe that our best hope for enacting these policies and programs is to vote for Rod Blagojevich on Tuesday.

As environmentalists, we have to ask ourselves, who would we rather have leading our state, as we face continuing assaults on our environmental laws in Washington, and as we face major decisions of our own about energy policy, clean air, clean water, and natural areas protection?

Rod Blagojevich is the first Illinois Governor ever to stand up to the owners of Illinois’ coal plants, some of the heaviest hitters in Illinois politics, and force them to clean up their act. Cleaning up old, dirty coal plants has been at the top of the agenda for the Illinois environmental community for decades, but Blagojevich was the first Governor to act on these concerns. On November 2nd, the Illinois Pollution Control Board approved his proposal to cut 90% of coal plant mercury by 2009 – much deeper and faster cuts than proposed by President Bush. Blagojevich stood up to another powerful lobby, hospital owners, and ordered them to shut down the 11 hospital waste incinerators in the state spewing dioxin, mercury, and other toxins into our air. Eight of them are now closed, and the remaining three are expected to close soon.

Blagojevich is the first Illinois Governor to aggressively promote wind power. His energy plan calls for 10% of our electricity to come from wind by 2015. He has committed to powering the state’s buildings in Springfield entirely by wind energy. His energy plan also includes $100 million to promote “cellulosic” ethanol development, and new programs to conserve energy.

Our rivers and streams are cleaner today than four years ago, thanks to Blagojevich’s requirement that all new wastewater plants include phosphorus controls. Clean water advocates have sought action on nutrient pollution for many years from Illinois EPA, but Blagojevich was the first Governor to act on the clear evidence that nutrient overload is choking many of our state’s waters. Blagojevich continues efforts to reform the Facility Planning Area process to protect high quality streams from poorly planned development. He is moving to address Illinois’ longstanding lack of any program to regulate water withdrawals, to make sure we have enough clean water for drinking and for wildlife.

If it were not for Rod Blagojevich’s vetoes of bills to let dirtbikes and four-wheelers into our state parks, they undoubtedly would be roaring through some of our parks today. When the Bush Administration proposed logging and selling off parts of our Shawnee National Forest, Blagojevich objected, and those threats never materialized. Blagojevich supported efforts to pass the Illinois Wetland Protection Act, and is committed to working to fill the wetland protection gap left by recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

Finally, Blagojevich is the first Illinois Governor, and first Midwest Governor, to commit to serious action to confront global warming. He has signed a binding commitment to reduce state government’s emissions of greenhouse gases by 6% by 2010, and launched an effort to develop a greenhouse gas regulatory program for the state. The cap and trade program recently adopted by California is being studied closely as a possible model for Illinois.

To be sure, environmentalists have had their differences with the Blagojevich administration. We have opposed new pulverized coal plants that the administration has supported, and we will continue to do so. Blagojevich is not the first Illinois Governor to champion the Illinois coal industry, and he will not be the last. We are encouraged that the Governor’s energy plan does not include any plans for further pulverized coal plants, but instead focuses coal development resources on promoting gasified coal plants, which are far cleaner than pulverized plants, and at least have the potential to capture their carbon emissions. The Green Party platform promotes the same policies.

There is no question that the state’s budget problems have had an impact on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources ability to carry out its mission. It is important to note, however, that these problems began with significant losses during the Ryan administration due to early retirement, and while they did worsen during the beginning of the Blagojevich administration, they have also begun to improve, thanks to increasing appropriations and staffing levels in recent budgets. We are confident that this trend will continue, and that the IDNR will continue to build strength as the state’s fiscal health improves.

Blagojevich is the only Illinois Governor ever endorsed by the Sierra Club. I certainly agree with the majority of the Green Party platform, but it is also clear that of the three candidates in this race, none has come close the record of environmental achievement of Governor Blagojevich.

Historically in Illinois, state government’s goal in protecting the environment has too often been to do the minimum to comply with the law. While bureaucratic cultures do not change overnight, more and more Illinois is asking “What’s the best we can do?” instead of “What’s the least we can do?” This is the beginning of a remarkable change for Illinois, particularly set against the backdrop of what is happening to the environmental protection framework of our federal government.

As Illinois environmentalists, and as citizens of the planet, we need that trend to continue. We need to reward innovation and initiative when it comes to the major energy and environmental policy questions of our time. We cannot afford to revert to an era where we did the minimum Washington asked of us, especially now.

Rod Blagojevich’s environmental accomplishments have earned him the support of this green voter. I urge you to consider the record, be proud of the fact that your state is becoming a national leader on the environment, and reward this initiative with your vote on Tuesday.

Jack Darin


Jeff Trigg 6:23 PM  

Cool, the Sierra Club endorses corruption, pay to play, campaign coffers full of dirty money, and politicians abuse of power. That's very honorable.

rawraw04 7:37 PM  

Write in Randy Stufflebeam for Governor! He is a 22 year veteran of the marines and is a firm beleiver in the constitution. Find out where Randy stands on the issues and his plans for cleaning up Illinois at

Randall Sherman 7:46 PM  

Save your platitudes for when Gov. Sleazy's address is one of the sites within the federal prison system, at which point you and I (and every other Illinois taxpayer) will be forking out extra tax dollars for the higher interest costs the state will have to pay as soon as Blagojevich is indicted and the state's bond ratings plummet.

Anonymous,  8:59 PM  

I guess the door is going to hit me in the butt as after reading that I have no desire to return and either read or participate here. The current Governor has gutted the DNR and it may never recover. It isn't the greening of Illinois, it is him taking all the green for himself - and you all should know what I mean.

I just deleted the link and hope you all reap what you sow...

Anonymous,  9:18 PM  

Jack Darin is such a sellout. He has prooven in this campaign that he has zero credibility. I hear that the Sierra Club is going to be loosing several hundred members and TONS of donations, because they're too ignorant to realize that a good portion of their base are members of the Green Party. Way to go goofball!

OneMan 9:22 PM  

Ask someone from the DNR on the difference between Ryan and Blago.

The department is much worse off now that is was under Ryan.

Also for what it's worth I don't see any of the other posters on Illinoize basically doing political ads for their guy....

Anonymous,  9:29 PM  

I suspect that Jack Darin's appointments to various taskforces by Blagojevich may be clouding his judgement a little. Hey Jack, we understand that you have a political career to maintain!

Anonymous,  1:09 AM  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – November 4, 2006


Dave Sacks, Office Manager
Whitney for Governor, 773-557-9411

Rich Whitney, the Green Party candidate for Illinois Governor, and Julie Samuels, the Green Party candidate for Lt. Governor, today responded to an open letter, written by Illinois Sierra Club Director Jack Darin, in which Darin praises and urges voters to support the same candidate that recently appointed Darin to serve on two taskforces, both designed to "assist in implementation" of that candidate's very own energy plan.

The Governor's office issued a press release on September 8, 2006, indicating that Darin had been appointed by the Governor for membership in the "Coal Gasification & Carbon Sequestration Working Group" and the "Clean Car and Energy Efficiency Working Group" along with representatives of organizations including the Office of Coal Development, ConocoPhillips, Eastman Chemical, Ford Motor Company, Z Frank Chevrolet, and various others.

The Illinois Environmental Council has given the Governor one B and three D's on it's Environmental Report Card, including F's in several subcategories. Despite his lavish praise in the letter, Darin acknowledges that "environmentalists have had their differences with the Blagojevich administration" but, nonetheless, goes on to tout the Governor's so-called "record of environmental achievement." The Sierra Club is an organizational member of the Illinois Environmental Council; however, regardless, according to Darin himself, "Blagojevich is the only Illinois Governor ever endorsed by the Sierra Club."

"This represent a terrible conflict of interest because, in a situation like this, you are beholden to promote the interests the of person who appoints you, rather than those of the organization for whom you are working," said Samuels, who also served as Vice President of the Illinois Environmental Council for two terms. "Why is Jack Darin supporting the status quo instead of Green Party candidates that would not hesitate to advance the agenda of the Sierra Club," asked Samuels.

"Jack Darin's free advertising for the Blagojevich campaign is unworthy of the good intentions of the vast majority the Sierra Club's actual members. If environmental, labor, and other organizations simply vote their convictions, instead of kowtowing to the power of big money, we can start making the kinds of changes that these organizations want," said Whitney. "I have to wonder if Jack Darin bothered to take a survery of his own membership before taking it upon himself to issue such a blatently partisan statement," added Whitney.

"Jack Darin has violated the trust of his membership and his partners on the Illinois Environmental Council," concluded Samuels.



Anonymous,  5:48 AM  

Nice try, Jack! Bet you feel like a Jack-ass right now. Blago's crew caught again being devious. 12 - 20 for them all.

Anonymous,  9:05 AM  

Everyone knows that Jack Darin is a man of integrity and his word in Springfield. There isn't a better environmental advocate than Jack.

For bitter and ill advised, Jack is not responsible for Sierra Club endorsements. Sierra Club Chapters and the Executive Board makes the decision.

Furthermore the Governor deserves this endorsment. The list of environmental achievements under this administration is long and the Governor has always had a strong environmental record -- both in Congress and the legislature. Whitney has never held office and Topkina has a poor record and is now too close to the Bush Administration.

Anonymous,  9:31 AM  

The Governor's appointment of Jack Darin tells me that he values the opinions of environmental leaders. I am comforted by that just as I was when he appointed a former IEC President and Lung Association Director to be the EPA's Associate Director.

Many positive things have happened as a result of this Governor's strong relationship with Illinois' envionmental community.

It should come as no surprise as the League of Consevation voters always rated the Governor in the mid 90s or higher while he served in Congress. In the legislature, he was always a realiable environmental vote.

treehuggybear 9:35 AM  

Yes, get a grip, people! Jack Darin doesn't make the decision on who gets endorsed. It's done by Sierra Club members who volunteer to serve on various committees.

Unlike the VFW endorsement for Roskum (where a lone DuPage GOP hack was responsible), true environmentalists -- ie, the ones actually make a difference in improving our environment by volunteering -- made this call.

If you are a true environmentalist, you certainly have the right to vote for Whitney, but don't come crying to me four years from now after Judy and the national GOP rape Illinois' environment.

tistophone,  10:02 AM  

Nice one from "treehuggybear"! Can you say NADER? There may be well meaning people in Whitney's camp(and I am sure there are) but I am not willing to give up Illinois' environment to someone that will owe the Bush Admnistration.

panther4,  10:39 AM  

It never works to improperly personalize an attack on a popular leader in a group you hope to court. If this is the type of judgment we can expect from Whitney. I'm not interested.

Anonymous,  11:44 AM  

Why would the Whitney people want to court Jack Darin? He's in the back pocket of Blagojevich! Plus, we all know that the Democrats are responsible for any so-called "spoiler" effect, because they keep refusing to implement Instant Runoff Voting. Too bad for them! By the way, it's funny to see the Blagojevich machine go into action and start defending Jack Darin. LOL

Anonymous,  12:12 PM  

You folks are helping to make the case for ANYONE but Whitney. I could never consider a guy that supports concealed carry laws so he was never an option.

Anonymous,  1:02 PM  

You were going to vote for one of the corrupt, corporate-sponsored candiates anyway. It's interesting how you're doing Blago's bidding by perpetuating the MYTH that Whitney supports concealed carry--he DOESN'T. Whitney supports OPEN carry, with an exception for Chicago and Cook County--quite a different position.

MONTANA,  1:08 PM  

As a Sierran, I am glad that the Governor is appointing enviro advocates to working groups. This is hardly a conflict of interest and is what we should hope all Governors do. I'm glad we have soemone that can be a resource in shaping public policy.

Anonymous,  1:13 PM  

Anon 1:02. So is everyone that disagrees with yor candidate doing the bidding or the repub or dem party?

June,  1:53 PM  

Is the Green Party press release a glimpse of what we could expect from a Whitney administration? In that case, noooo, thank you!
Disagree, and you will be the target of false accusations and public character assassination.

Whitney just lost my vote.

Jack is one of the most respected environmental advocates in Illinois.He has worked tirelessly for over a decade to bring about environmental and public health improvements. There is no doubt about his committment and integrity.

Sierra Club is not the only environmental organization that has representatives on Blagojevich's energy plan working groups. So do the Environmental Law and Policy Center, American Lung Assosciation, Citizen Action Illinois, Environment llinois and the Clean Air Task Force. Check it out yourself.
Is the Geen Party suggesting by the statement by Samuels:
"This represent a terrible conflict of interest because, in a situation like this, you are beholden to promote the interests the of person who appoints you, rather than those of the organization for whom you are working," that they all will be tainted somehow? How silly.
There is absolutely no conflict of interest for environmental organizations to be part of clean energy planning groups and to have their voices heard.
But it is of course much easier to be on the outside throwing rocks as Whitney just did.

Anonymous,  4:23 PM  

For those griping about the make up of the various task forces established by the Governor to fleche out his energy plan, those are unpaid positions. There's no "advancing a political career" involved. For those of us who have been on such panels in this and previous administrations, it's simply a venue to talk to the other side on a particular issue. All too often advocates for change are left standing outside the room, yelling in while decisions are made. Anyone who cares at all about the environment should be overjoyed that environmentalists like Jack Darrin and others are in the room instead of outside. Perhaps the Green Party would prefer to continue to be the ones outside yelling in rather than actually trying to get something done.

As an aside, any attack on Jack's environmental credibility or personal integrity is laughable and a disgrace to the accuser. BTW, I'm not a Blago supporter or employee, just an environmentalist who has close dealings with the Sierra Club and Jack on a regular basis.

DLK,  5:14 PM  

Well said. It is disgraceful that the Whitney Campaign would try to tear down an organization's executive director because they do not like who his members voted to endorse. (I think it is good that the state has unpaid experts providing advice. It saves us all money.)

Thankfully, people like that will always always be on the outside looking in.

It's not Jack that lost credible, here. It is Whitney. Those of us in the environmental community (republicans, independents and democrats alike) have known and worked with him for many years. He is easily one of the best liked and most respected people Illinois' environmental circles.

This attack says a lot about Whitney and his campaign. Not only are they out of touch with who the environmental community trusts, but they are willing to distort the truth for their own gain. Funny, this comes from the "holier than thou crowd."

Anonymous,  6:06 PM  

ROFL. You Blagojevich people crack me up. You need to learn to be a little more subtle because when you come out in such force, it's obvious to everyone what you're trying to do. I mean Julie Samuels has worked with and knows Jack Darin better than ANYONE on this blog, and she's the one that said Darin is a problem. I trust her on that. Plus, the Sierra Club has been consistently biased against the Green Party, even refusing to bother to send candidate questionnaires to some, like Dorian Breuer in the 1st Senate District. A Blagojevich operative like Darin has no business leading an organization like the Sierra Club, and he deserves whatever he might get--maybe if he was a little more fair, and it was just honest disagreement, he wouldn't have this problem and need to ask the Blagojevich campaign to send so many footsoldiers out onto the blogs to defend his "good name."

Anonymous,  8:59 PM  

Everyone other than Whitney is corrupt and every environmentalist offended by your remarks is a Blagojevich footsoldier? Keep going. You are digging your candidate into a deeper hole.

Anonymous,  7:44 AM  

I don't think Darin's corrupt. I just think he's in Blago's back pocket. It's Blago that I think is corrupt, which by the way, according to the polls, is in line with majority opinion.

Anonymous,  9:20 AM  

Don't worry Jack. These socialist wackos will be on the outside looking in regardless of whether Judy or Blago are elected.

Anonymous,  11:39 AM  

LOL "Socialist wackos?" Oh my gosh, now you're REALLY making your candidate look bad. Boy, I thought I was going to join the Sierra Club, but if that is what we can expect, no way--I'm joining the Project for the New American Century. LOL Get real. Membership in the Green Party is growing. They're running more candidates, and winning more elections every year. Jack Darin didn't have to write that letter--he choose to do so; and when he did, he accepted the negative reaction that was going to come with it. That's okay, he has Blago's footsoliders to back him up, so he can handle it.

susan624,  1:11 PM  

I'm sure that I will be accused of being a footsoldier because I am sharing this. However, considering
the content of the last blogger's e-mail I doubt he has much credibility with anyone. Please review this. I felt it was a thoughtful piece for those of us that merely care about issues.


Blagojevich is a National Leader

For the first time in decades, Illinois has a Governor who is a national leader on environmental issues. Unfortunately, I haven't seen much election coverage about the environment. Because the federal government so often ignores environmental protection (e.g., global warming) or undermines it (e.g., new loopholes for companies to pollute the air), we need Governors at the state level who are willing to provide the leadership that is missing in Washington DC.

For example, I worry about air pollution. Thankfully, Governor Rod Blagojevich's plans to cut power plant emissions are among the strongest in nation and far more protective of public health than federal requirements. He's pledged to power state buildings in Springfield with zero-pollution wind power starting in 2007. This would be the largest wind power purchase by any state in the U.S. He also persuaded Illinois hospitals to shut down incinerators that spew toxins into the air.

Blagojevich is a national leader on addressing climate change. Illinois has the only state program that provides incentives for farmers to use conservation practices that take greenhouse gases out of the air. Illinois is only the second state to join the Chicago Climate Exchange, which means the state will lead by example by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from government operations. And the Governor recently announced the formation of an Advisory Group to help develop a comprehensive plan to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Illinois.

National leadership on environmental issues is not something we have seen from Illinois Republican governors, who too often favored polluters and other special interests at the expense of the environment and public heath. Based on her track record and affiliations, I would expect more of the same from Judy Barr Topinka.. Would she have signed legislation to ban the sale of products that contain mercury or legislation to provide new authority to close and cleanup illegal dumps and landfills? Would Ms. Topinka have created tougher limits on discharges from wastewater treatment plants?

I doubt it. If you want a Governor you can count on to protect the environment and public heath now and for future generations, vote for Governor Blagojevich.

footsoldier,  5:11 PM  

State submits Request for Information for construction and operation of Carbon Dioxide pipeline

Pipeline would allow for safe containment and transportation of greenhouse gases released by coal gasification plants

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced that today the state will issue a Request for Information (RFI) regarding the construction and operation of a Carbon Dioxide (CO2) pipeline stretching from the coal gasification plants planned for central and southern Illinois to Illinois Basin oilfields in southeastern Illinois. The RFI, submitted to companies with expertise in pipeline development, is to determine the best construction and operation practices, the appropriate siting, as well as the interest level within the industry to work with the state to develop a CO2 pipeline system in Illinois. The CO2 pipeline is an integral part of the Governor’s Energy Independence Plan released earlier this year.

The Governor’s energy plan calls for the investment of $775 million to help build ten new coal gasification plants over the next ten years, which would convert Illinois’ coal from a solid to a gas that can be processed into a substitute for natural gas, diesel fuel, or electricity. The plants would use Illinois coal to meet 25 percent of the state’s diesel fuel needs, 25 percent of natural gas needs, and 10 percent of electricity needs. Coal gasification is the cleanest and most efficient way to convert coal to energy, with low emissions of mercury and other air pollutants, and allows carbon dioxide to be captured for permanent underground storage.

“Our energy plan will reduce Illinois’ dependence on foreign oil – allowing us to use Illinois’ own natural resources to meet 50 percent of our fuel needs by 2017,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Constructing a carbon dioxide pipeline is a big part of our plan because it will allow us to build coal gasification plants and use the CO2 they emit to extract more oil without contributing to global warming.”

As part of his energy plan, the Governor has proposed building a pipeline from gasification facilities in Illinois to Illinois Basin oilfields in southeastern Illinois. Illinois’ oil fields hold about one billion untapped barrels of oil resources. Because these oil fields are mature, production cannot increase without using advanced recovery techniques. “Enhanced Oil Recovery,” which uses carbon dioxide to extract more oil from existing reserves, could nearly double the amount of petroleum produced by Illinois annually. The 140-mile pipeline would transport the carbon dioxide captured by the coal gasification plants to oilfields and use the pressurized carbon dioxide to extract more oil.

Additionally, the carbon dioxide transported by the pipeline could be used to extract methane from Illinois coal reserves. Illinois coal reserves hold enough methane, a fuel similar to natural gas, to meet all of the state’s natural gas needs for seven years. The royalties from the recovered oil and gas would subsidize the infrastructure costs of transporting and permanently storing the carbon dioxide underground.

In an effort to recover residual oil and natural gas from Illinois’ vast oil and coal bed methane reserves, the State is seeking expressions of interest from the private sector to build and/or operate a pipeline “backbone” that will link new coal gasification and biofuels production facilities with mature oil fields amenable to Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) and with potential enhanced coal bed methane resources in Illinois.

The ultimate goal is to ensure that the infrastructure needed to transport sufficient quantities of carbon dioxide to Illinois Basin oil fields and other geological formations is sufficient to extract available oil reserves and permanently store carbon dioxide captured from coal gasification facilities and biofuels plants.

In the event that carbon dioxide becomes a regulated commodity, a CO2 pipeline would assist generators of CO2 to generate revenue from carbon credits they may accrue by transporting CO2 from coal gasification and biofuel plants to sites suitable for permanent storage in deep saline reservoirs, such as in the Mt. Simon Sandstone reservoir.

Background of Illinois’ EOR and Carbon Sequestration Potential:

Recent studies show that Illinois Basin has an original-oil-in-place volume of 14.1 billion.

The volume of oil amenable to CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) in the Illinois Basin is assessed at approximately 860 million to 1.3 billion barrels, and the majority of that resource is concentrated in a limited number of large fields in South Central and Southeastern Illinois. For example, approximately 340 million barrels of EOR resources resides in three large fields and six nearby smaller fields in Southeastern Illinois.

The State is conducting significant geological carbon sequestration research supported by the U.S. Department of Energy that includes new field testing of EOR in Illinois’ mature oil fields; the first CO2 is expected to be injected into a mature field in December.

Potential sources of large quantities of CO2 are now being developed in Illinois. Several well-financed coal gasification projects and ethanol plants are now under development in Illinois that would yield gas streams with high CO2 concentrations suitable not only for EOR but possibly Enhanced Coalbed Methane (ECBM) where the adsorption of CO2 on deep coal seems may boost methane production to enhance regional supplies of natural gas.

The Illinois Basin’s primary coalbed methane and ECBM resource is assessed at 6.7 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), the majority of which is located in southeastern Illinois coincident with coals that overlie major oil fields in the deeper parts of the Illinois Basin.

Building a CO2 pipeline to permanently trap and store carbon dioxide supports the Governor’s recently announced Climate Change Initiative, which includes an Executive Order that created the Illinois Climate Change Advisory Group. The Group will consider the full range of policies and strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Illinois and make recommendations to the Governor. The Advisory Group will have broad representation that will include business leaders, labor unions, the energy and agricultural industries, scientists, economists, and environmental groups from throughout the state. The Governor named Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Doug Scott as Chair of the Advisory Group.

The Governor also announced that Illinois would join New Mexico to become only the second state in the nation to join the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX). As a CCX member, the state makes a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity and fuel needed to operate state facilities and motor vehicles; the reduction target only applies to state government operations.

Footsoldier,  5:25 PM  

From the Tribune
State moves against mercury
Cuts on power plant pollution advance

By Michael Hawthorne
Tribune staff reporter
Published November 3, 2006
Taking a swipe at the Bush administration's environmental policy, Illinois moved closer Thursday to requiring deep cuts in mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants.

The limits endorsed by a state rule-making panel would make Illinois one of two dozen states that have rejected a slower, more lenient approach adopted by the federal government.
What makes the Illinois regulations stand out is that Illinois is a major coal producer and user.

Half of its electricity comes from aging power plants that burn coal. Those smokestacks are major sources of mercury, a toxic metal that can damage the developing brain and nervous system of a fetus or young child.

"Mercury shouldn't be contaminating our lakes and rivers," said Steve Frenkel, director of policy development for Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has made the tougher state rules a key part of his re-election campaign.

"We know it's a potent neurotoxin," Frenkel said. "And now we know we can reduce it effectively and inexpensively."

2 utilities change stance

After initially complaining the state's rules would be too costly and impossible to achieve, two major utilities cut a deal with the Blagojevich administration under which they will get more time to comply with the state's standards.

Those companies, Ameren and Dynegy, pledged to reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent by 2015, instead of by 2009. In return, they agreed to tighter limits on other forms of air pollution that causes smog, soot and acid rain.

A third company, Midwest Generation, continues to fight the requirements and could be forced to comply with Blagojevich's original proposal.

The federal rules, by contrast, call for a 70 percent reduction in mercury emissions by 2018.

The EPA's inspector general reported earlier this year that allowing utilities to trade the right to release mercury could make it more difficult to reduce high levels of the toxic metal in parts of the nation.

Mercury pollution is so pervasive that Illinois and 43 other states advise anglers to limit consumption of freshwater fish, mostly large predator species that can accumulate large amounts of the metal.

About 40 percent of the fish sampled statewide during the past two decades had mercury levels above the federal exposure limit for an average-size woman, according to state records reviewed by the Illinois Public Interest Research Group.

State officials have declined to say if the new rules would enable them to drop the fish advisories. But some researchers have found that reducing pollution from nearby sources leads to lower mercury levels in fish.

Following more than 7,300 public comments and 18 days of hearings, the Illinois Pollution Control Board found the mercury regulations are "economically feasible" and "technically justifiable." Before taking effect, the rules still must pass muster with a panel of state lawmakers.

The last roadblock could be Midwest Generation, owner of coal-fired power plants in Chicago's Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods as well as Romeoville, Joliet and Waukegan.

Equipment tested during the summer at the Crawford plant in Little Village reduced mercury emissions by more than 80 percent but failed to consistently achieve the 90 percent target, said spokesman Doug McFarlan.

"We agree it's a relatively cost-effective way to get significant reductions," McFarlan said. "But we think it's premature to say we can guarantee a 90 percent reduction."

Companies seek more time

Company executives are trying to negotiate a compromise with state officials that would give them more time and flexibility to reduce mercury and other forms of air pollution, including sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

"It's time for Midwest Gen to step up and be a responsible corporate citizen," said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. "They should be part of the solution along with the other utilities."

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Anonymous,  7:44 PM  

I was surprised the Sierra Club endorsed the Governor.

Yes, he wants to cut mercury emissions from old coal-burning power plants, but he supports the construction of new coal plants that won’t include the latest combustion technologies and pollution controls to help reduce heat-trapping carbon emissions and other contaminants. Why didn’t his environmental department require Peabody Energy to use a coal gasification system at its new plant near St. Louis?

The Governor has also appointed political operatives to run the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. He raided the special funds that support the preservation of habitat, open space and natural resources in the state. He has fired or demoted qualified employees with extensive experience in natural resource management. Morale at DNR is at an all-time low.

The Governor’s renewable energy plan allows the power companies to voluntarily purchase green energy like wind and solar. Other states requires these companies to make binding, enforceable commitments. Does Sierra Club trust Ameren and ComEd to do the right thing?

The Governor wants the state to be a leader in addressing global climate change, but he appointed yet another advisory committee to study the issue. California and states in the northeast are taking the lead in requiring power companies, automakers and others to reduce carbon emissions. We need action, not more study.

I thought the Sierra Club would have higher standards in judging the candidates. At best, it should have been neutral. The pillaging of DNR, on its own, should have been a major strike against the Governor.

Anonymous,  10:18 AM  

The Governor can pillage anything he wants, and the Sierra Club would probably still support him. Just because he's better than Pinka on the environment doesn't make him a good candidate worthy of endorsement--he's still a horrible choice. What gets me that Jack Darin would be so agressive about stumping for a guy that isn't all that great. I mean, talk about adding insult to injury. I think that the Greens, and their supporters have a right to be angry with Jack Darin, especially if it is true that the Sierra Club has been discriminating against Green Party candidates.

The issue here is that this is a political move--not a principled one. Jack Darin is afraid to be on the loosing side of an endorsement, because he thinks that he won't have the easy access to power brokers that he does now. I can understand that, but let's call this what it is. In the process, we give people like Blagojevich a pass on many of the things that he should be doing, because of a few little things he has done, and that sends a message that environmentalists don't want more.

It's no wonder that we're not making much progress, with influential organizations like the Sierra Club simply reinforcing and supporting the inadequate status quo!

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