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Speaking Out for Strong Coal Ash Rules

Advocates across IL worked together for several years to regulate the storage and cleanup of coal ash impoundments.

Many of those impoundments—commonly known as “coal ash ponds” or “fill”—are not lined properly. Because these ponds are not lined properly, they are seeping carcinogenic toxins like mercury and cadmium into Illinois’ groundwater, rivers, and into Lake Michigan.

In Spring 2019, the Illinois Coal Ash Prevention Act was finally signed into law. Now the law is in the rulemaking phase, and the Illinois Pollution Control Board has published draft rules. This is a very important stage, because community members (both organizations like ours and concerned citizens) have the opportunity to comment on those draft rules during public hearings. The Board has scheduled two sets of hearings, one in August and a second at the end of September/Early October.

Registration to testify September/October just opened up! Go to this Google Form to sign up today. We should know specific dates and times by August 28. Stay tuned for more info!

Alongside Lake County Outreach Director, Celeste Flores, Eli Rodriguez co-led the 2020 Lake County Eco-Ambassador Summer Youth Program with Nya Flowers as an Ecological Educator. ​

Below is a selection of abbreviated testimonies* from the August hearing, which occurred on August 11-13th. The speakers included: two college students who co-lead the 2020 Lake County Summer Youth Eco-Ambassador Program with Celeste Flores and two Green Team leaders from Congregation Or Shalom, which is located in Vernon Hills, IL. Several Staff members also testified. Their testimonies will be available in a part two of this blog [insert link to that blog]. Each person advocated for stronger rules than are described in the draft rules and emphasized the importance of environmental justice for communities like Waukegan.

*These testimonies have been edited for length & clarity. To read each person’s full statement, please click on the PDF link in each section.

Alongside Lake County Outreach Director, Celeste Flores, Eli Rodriguez co-led the 2020 Lake County Eco-Ambassador Summer Youth Program with Nya Flowers as an Ecological Educator. ​

Eli Rodriguez

Alongside Lake County Outreach Director, Celeste Flores, Eli Rodriguez co-led the 2020 Lake County Eco-Ambassador Summer Youth Program with Nya Flowers as an Ecological Educator. ​

One of the main reasons it took so long for me and other community members to find out about the coal plant is because of the lack of language access. When you have a community that is over 60% Spanish-speaking, it would be logical to inform those people that their health is at risk. Going forward with decision making, I urge to have information published in Spanish and include thorough instructions on how to stay informed (i.e Section 845.260(b)).

It’s extremely important that our community knows how to be informed, how to stay informed, and how to stay active. But there tends to be many elements that limit us from knowing more, and it’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we don't know.

Read Eli’s full statement here.

Nya Flowers

Alongside Lake County Outreach Director, Celeste Flores, Nya Flowers co-led the 2020 Lake County Eco-Ambassador Summer Youth Program with Eli Rodriguez as an Ecological Educator.

Hello my name is Nya Flowers I am a senior at DePauw University studying global health with a minor in biochemistry, and I am currently interning with Faith in Place. I am here today to express urgent concern for the health and safety of coal ash pond cleanups, and public access to documents along with having a safe space for the communities' voice in these decisions.

Learn more about Nya and read her full statement on her Ecological Educator profile here.

John Katz-Mariani

My name is John Katz-Mariani. I lead the Green Team at Congregation Or Shalom in Vernon Hills in Lake County. Our Green Team receives support, guidance and inspiration from Faith in Place. I am also here representing my congregation of 400 families in support of the people of Waukegan, our neighbors. The Jewish tradition teaches many values, among them: We shall love our neighbors as ourselves; We are all made in the Divine image; and we shall pursue justice whenever and wherever we perceive injustice.

It is unjust that the people of Waukegan, especially the children, our future, have to live in the midst of 5 superfund sites. It is even worse that they have to experience toxins actively leaking into their water from coal ash. It is not a coincidence that Waukegan is mostly a Latinx and African American community of working people, as this pattern of environmental injustice towards communities of color is repeated all over Illinois and the entire country. We know that Waukegan can speak for itself. We just want you to know that we stand with this community, that we are aware of what is happening there, and that it is unconscionable to us that anyone would argue for the weakening of any coal ash-related rule that would, if enforced, protect the community now and for the future.

Read John’s full statement here.

The Waukegan Generating Station is nearly 100 years old.
The Waukegan Generating Station is nearly 100 years old.

Eliana Bernat

Hello. My name is Eliana and I am an incoming high school junior in Lake County, IL. I am here today to urge the Illinois Pollution Control Board to live up to its responsibility of protecting the people of Illinois by strengthening coal ash rules and promoting environmental justice. I first want to talk about the situation in Waukegan.

This pollution is impacting the health of people right now and will continue to contaminate for centuries. The rules you have the power to enact will determine the level of pollution to which my generation has to endure, directly impacting my generation’s health.

It is not an accident that these disastrous impacts from coal ash are happening in Waukegan, where the population is almost 75% Black and Latinx. The prominence of fossil fuel plants and pollution in communities of color is a pattern perpetuated across Illinois and the country. The same harmful substance that is destroying the planet and causing the climate crisis – fossil fuels – is also disproportionately harming the health of low-income communities and communities of color. This makes pollution and coal ash regulations, a racial justice issue.

Read Eliana's full testimony in this PDF.

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Yumi Vega
Yumi Vega

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