New Rule Decreases Coal Pollution

For nearly two years we’ve been fighting an effort to allow coal power plants to nearly double the amount of lung and climate-damaging pollution they pump into the air we breathe. The proposed changes to the state’s air pollution control rules were negotiated behind closed doors by the company that owns eight polluting power plants and then-Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration.

Respiratory Health Association sent advocates and policy experts to testify against this attempted rollback at hearings, working with a coalition of environmental and health organizations across the state and the Illinois Attorney General. We also worked with local media to shed light on the situation and inform the public.

In a victory last month, the matter was settled and vast pollution increases were avoided. RHA testimony about coal power plant pollution at a hearing in 2018

The new rules require Vistra, the company that owns half of Illinois’ remaining coal-burning power plants, to close 2,000 megawatts of dirty electricity production by the end of this year. That’s roughly the equivalent of three coal plants.

In addition, the rule caps the emissions across the entire fleet at a level roughly equivalent to the pollution produced each year over the last two years – down considerably from the original request to double emissions.

Coal power has long been in decline because it is more expensive than other methods of producing electricity. Renewable, non-polluting wind and solar energy are becoming less expensive and more reliable as primary power sources every day and continue to grow dramatically in Illinois.

Legislation known as the Clean Energy Jobs Act is also gathering momentum in the Illinois General Assembly. It creates a path to eliminate burning fossil fuels to produce electricity while dramatically increasing investment in wind and solar energy while also accelerating electrification of transportation.

The Clean Energy Jobs Act didn’t get a vote in the last legislative session, but with nearly 80 legislators sponsoring it, we plan to continue building support for the legislation during the veto session this fall.

If you’d like to be stay up to date about clean air and lung-friendly policy efforts like these, sign up for RHA’s advocacy action alerts. You’ll be alerted to changes in policy and given the option to easily contact your elected officials via email.

Together We Made Strides toward Cleaner Air

RHA has worked for decades to reduce pollution from industrial sources like power plants and the millions of vehicles operating in Illinois.  This spring, your advocacy visits, emails and phone calls led to substantial victories for clean air. We also gained ground on important policies we’ll continue to advance next session.

 

Clean Energy Jobs Act Continues to Build Momentum

The ambitious Clean Energy Jobs bill continues to gain momentum with 49 co-sponsors in the House and 27 in the Senate by the end of May – with many joining as co-sponsors after RHA’s Lung Health Education Day in March.

The bill would ensure all electricity comes from non-carbon sources by 2030 (no fossil fuels) and all electricity comes from clean renewable sources by 2050; that the benefits of clean energy development from this transition are distributed equitably; and that efforts to electrify transportation remove the emissions equivalent of a million cars from the air people breathe.

RHA will continue to build on this momentum until the General Assembly comes back to Springfield in October.

 

Long-Standing Prohibition on State Action to Address Climate Crisis is Repealed

Legislation passed this session will remove a law passed 20 years ago that prohibited Illinois from enacting any policies to reduce greenhouse gases and tackle the climate crisis. The vote reflects that the state legislature increasingly sees an unstable climate as a health threat, especially for vulnerable people and those living with chronic medical conditions.

Removing this restriction means Illinois can now forge a more effective climate strategy and implement stronger greenhouse gas reduction policies, which will help expand clean renewable energy resources and reduce ozone smog. As the Sun-Times noted, Illinois could now even require tighter pollution limits for cars.

 

Clean Energy – Clean Air Victories in State Budget and Capital Spending Plan

The new state budget and capital plan passed this spring included several provisions to reduce emissions from electricity generation and transportation. Some harmful ideas were prevented as well.

Early versions of the capital plan included a $1000/year registration fee for any electric vehicles (EVs), which would have been a serious blow to the small but quickly growing market in Illinois just as more affordable EVs are beginning to show up at dealerships. In the end, zero-emission EV registration fees were raised to the same level as fossil fuel-powered vehicles and an extra $100/year fee was assessed since EV don’t contribute to state gasoline taxes. While this eliminated discounted registration fees for EVs, one of the very few incentives Illinois had to encourage people to by zero-emission vehicles, it also means EV fees are only a quarter of what was initially proposed.  Electric vehicles will still save drivers hundreds of dollars a year on gasoline not bought, and help reduce smog and greenhouse gas pollution!

 

Other victories this year in the state budget:

  • $50 million for the Renewable Energy Resources Fund. This supports the Illinois Solar for All program, which prioritizes new solar electric generation projects and solar job training in low-income communities.
  • $70 million is in the capital plan for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs for state facilities. This is sufficient funding to reduce 5% of state building energy usage, which will lower power demand and air pollution.
  • $70 million is in the capital plan to construct electric vehicle charging infrastructure in low income communities, helping ensure all communities can use electric vehicles.
  • $20 million is re-appropriated and another $60 million is appropriated from the Volkswagen emissions cheating settlement fund. Illinois EPA can now spend $80m on electric vehicle projects in the coming year that help reduce emissions from transportation sources to clean the air.

 

Together we’ve made great strides toward cleaner air, healthier lungs and a more sustainable future.

If you’d like to get move involved in Respiratory Health Association’s advocacy work, become an Advocacy Champion today.

Take a Stand Against Coal Plant Pollution

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) is working openly to allow most of Illinois’ remaining coal-fired power plants to nearly double their emissions of lung-damaging air pollution.  Dynegy, an energy company that owns eight coal plants in Illinois, started working behind the scenes with the IEPA over a year ago to weaken existing public health protections from air pollution.

Press conference with clean air activists

Brian Urbaszewski, RHA’s Director of Environmental Health Policy at a press event opposing the ruling.

The IEPA is pushing the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) to remove existing limits on the pollution emission rates for this fleet of eight coal plants in southern and central Illinois and to instead impose annual caps on how many tons of deadly sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides the plants emit. The proposed rollback would allow Dynegy to keep dirty coal plants open while closing cleaner ones equipped with pollution ‘scrubbers’ and to emit approximately 30,000 more tons of air pollution every year that triggers asthma attacks, emergency department visits, hospitalizations and premature deaths.

RHA has spoken out against these efforts that could drastically increase dangerous air pollution and harm people living with lung disease and will continue to do so.

This month, we joined with our partner organizations to file a motion to stop the hearings on Dynegy’s rollback proposal until Dynegy completes a recent merger with a much larger company.  Texas-based Vistra Energy acquired Dynegy in October 2017 and has not been involved in this rulemaking. We believe this dangerous rollback attempt should be put on hold until the merger is completed and Vistra publicly states whether it, too, wants to double air pollution from these coal plants.

Please join us in asking the IPCB to protect us all and prevent coal power plants from doubling the pollution they put in the air we breathe.

PROTECT THE ILLINOIS CLEAN AIR LAW

NO ROLLBACKS FOR OUR STATE’S BIGGEST POLLUTER!

Governor Rauner’s EPA is poised to eliminate air pollution safeguards that would allow THOUSANDS MORE TONS of air pollution into the air you breathe every year.

According to today’s Chicago Tribune, Illinois EPA and the state’s largest polluter, Dynegy. Inc. have been rewriting Illinois air pollution laws in secret since last year, and are now poised to propose a massive increase in how much pollution Dynegy’s EIGHT huge ancient coal power plants in Illinois would be able to emit.

HOW MUCH?

As much as 10,000 TONS more smog and soot pollution than they are emitting now.

WHEN?

As early as NEXT YEAR.

WHY?

The most likely reason is that Dynegy wants to run its cleanest coal plants – the ones equipped with modern pollution scrubbing equipment – LESS often, and wants to run its dirtiest most polluting coal power plants MORE. They could make more money by running their cheaper dirtier power plants, but YOU will wind up paying the price.

Whatever rollbacks the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Dynegy are able to force through will eventually have to get approval from state legislators before Dynegy would be allowed to run its dirtiest coal power plants more oftern – so YOUR legislators can help stop this attack on clean air.

You can take action! RHA has prepared an email that encourages legislators not to approve these rollbacks. Our e-advocacy system makes it easy for you to send the email directly to Governor Rauner and your legislators. Send your emails now.

For more information about RHA’s clean air initiatives, contact Brian Urbaszewski via email at [email protected] or by phone at (312) 628-0245.