In this past year, we got so much done.
- In 2014, thanks to a great idea from the Alliance for Great Lakes and leadership from Senator Steans, Illinois became the first government in the world to ban microbeads in personal care products and take action on plastic pollution.
- Thanks to many in this room, loans from the Clean Water Initiative were expanded to include green stormwater infrastructure and pollution prevention projects and more funds are available than ever for these projects.
- This year we protected the cougar and black bear and stopped a hunting proposal for bobcats.
- In addition to those, we stopped a proposal that would have gutted Illinois’ fracking law, went up against a resolution against the Clean Power Plan, and fought against the Illiana Tollroad.
Over veto session in November, we’ll be continuing to work to defeat the Illiana tollroad. This road – which papers have called the “road to nowhere” – would disrupt the Midewin Tallgrass Prairie, pollute the Kankakee River Watershed, and displace important preserved farmland. We’ll be asking legislators to vote against this plan in November.
On the conservation front, we’ll also be working to make sure that the DNR budget continues to remain protected, particularly as the second half of this year’s fiscal budget needs to be worked out.
Our award winners will be introduced later, but on the conservation front, I wanted to share my favorite story about Representative Barbara Flynn Currie. I think many of you are aware of the important recreation liability legislation that passed last year. Rep. Currie wasn’t a sponsor, but she was key in getting the bill to move. I visited her every day for nearly two weeks to check on its progress. Finally one morning she called and simply said, “Jen, the bill is moving, the bill is moving, the bill is moving.” And that was the moment I knew seven years of works by advocates was becoming a reality. Thank you so much Rep. Currie.
Finally, we are carefully watching what happens with the fracking rules at the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. The amazing team from NRDC, ELPC, Sierra Club, and Faith in Place have been working to make sure that JCAR doesn’t give a huge win to the fracking industry.
I wan to give special recognition to someone who is “Just a volunteer” in our audience tonight. I know that we have many award winners in the audience, even many national award winners, but tonight I’d like to give special recognition to Fran Caffee. Fran in November will be honored with the William E. Colby Award, the highest award given to someone within the national Sierra Club. Fran, we are so grateful for your work here in Illinois.
All of us from environmental organizations know that our volunteers and our members are critical to our work and to our power in the state legislature. Many assume – and rightly so – that Springfield is all about the inside game, that it’s all about insider relationships, campaign contributions, and knowing the system. And sure, all of those things are important. I know that the work that IEC and our affiliates do to develop our relationships, our knowledge of Springfield, and offer our technical expertise does make a difference.
But it’s our volunteers – the thousands like Fran – that have the power to raise awareness of a problem. Our volunteers are the drumbeat that starts by learning an issue, then by telling friends, then by tabling, then by sending in letters to the editor, then by writing their elected officials then by visiting them in Springfield at Lobby day. All of this concern builds up and makes an impact. It brings the story to the attention of the media and then to decisionmakers. There is so much importance to grassroots groups – like Southeast Environmental Task Force, who we are honoring tonight. SETF is a great example of a group that has done just what I described in their community over and over.
In the coming years, we will need those volunteers and that impact more than ever.
As many of you know, the USEPA introduced historic standards in June of this year to reduce the nation’s carbon pollution in our electric sector. This is a historic step forward by our home state President and our country to address the many dangerous impacts of climate change.
It’s widely expected that important energy legislation will be considered next year by the Illinois General Assembly to meet the clean power plan goals; making this year one of the most important years in recent history for our state and the residents of Illinois.
We cannot allow another piece of energy policy to be passed in Illinois that doesn’t firmly establish renewable energy and energy efficiency as Illinois’ energy priority.
We need to fix the renewable energy portfolio standards.
We need to be investing in ALL cost effective energy efficiency.
We need to continue the pace and grow Illinois’ nearly 100,000 clean energy jobs.
We need to ensure that all Illinoisans, particularly those in underrepresented communities, are able to realize the public health benefits of a clean energy economy.
Illinois advocates are pulling out all of the stops in working with our elected officials to make sure they know Illinoisans want clean energy. Recent polling conducted by an independent bi-partisan firm for our organizations shows that 95% of Illinoisans support energy efficiency. Over 80% support wind and solar power. 84% think that we should move away from coal and move towards cleaner energy sources.
And our advocates have been busy bringing out a strong show of support for the Clean Power Plan. On Tuesday, over 20,000 letters were delivered to the Governor from Illinois residents thanking him for his strong stance on the proposed carbon pollution standards and for embracing clean energy solutions. A few weeks ago, a major event was held at an African-American church on the south side with religious and black caucus leaders and over 200 people demonstrating support for clean power. This is only the beginning for what we have planned to seize this incredible opportunity.
The time is coming to make a decision about our energy future and whether we will do something to protect future generations from climate change. Let’s make sure the General Assembly makes the right choice.