Pat Quinn, Governor
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Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
The Citizens’ Bulletin
Volume 10, Issue 1 –Winter 2014
In This Issue…
Welcome To The Citizens’ Bulletin!
Welcome to the Illinois EPA’s Citizens’ Bulletin. We are pleased to present our electronic environmental newsletter created specifically for the citizens of Illinois. The Citizens’ Bulletin is a component of our ongoing effort to carry out Governor Pat Quinn’s commitment to making state government more responsive to citizens by using technology such as the Internet.
We created this e-newsletter to provide you with useful information, such as Green Tips, a regular feature offering tips and ideas you can use to prevent pollution and protect the environment. Events, another regular feature, will include public hearings, workshops, conferences and events that offer opportunities for you to get involved. A schedule of events will also be available on our website and will be regularly updated. Each issue will include articles about Illinois EPA programs and activities to keep you informed.
We hope that this newsletter provides you with comprehensive news, events, and helpful hints. We welcome your feedback and your ideas of how we may better serve you.
Illinois Clean Water Initiative
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA), the Illinois Finance Authority (IFA), and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) are working together to implement Governor Quinn’s Clean Water Initiative and build a stronger Illinois. This is achieved by making $1 billion in low-cost loans available to local governments investing in waste water and drinking water capital projects. Local governments can use these funds for a variety of projects, including replacing aging water mains, upgrading water towers, or bringing waste water treatment facilities in line with federal standards. In turn, this helps to keep our drinking water safe, decrease energy costs and create green jobs statewide.
The Clean Water Initiative has no impact on the State’s General Fund or the State’s General Obligation bond rating. It’s an innovative update to the State Revolving Fund (SRF), funded in Illinois and other states with annual federal grants, a one-time infusion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funds, a previously-committed state match, plus the principal and interest from loan repayments.
Since 1989, Illinois EPA’s well-managed SRF program has provided more than $4.3 billion in below-market interest rate loans to 472 Illinois communities, without a single defaulted loan. This excellent track record has earned a AAA bond rating, a large amount of repaid interest to increase the pool of available funds, and the equity of the $2.2 billion in loans that will be repaid over the next 20 years.
For more information, please visit IEPA’s Clean Water Initiative Webpage
PM2.5: To Be or Not To Be (In Attainment) - That Is the Question
In a Final Rule published on October 2, 2013, U.S. EPA approved the State of Illinois’ request to redesignate the Chicago area to attainment of the 1997 annual standard for fine particulate matter (PM2.5). The 1997 annual standard was 15 ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter). Illinois currently meets the 24-hour standard of 35 ug/m3.
As of today, the Chicago area is considered in attainment for PM2.5 standards (both annual and 24-hour). Unfortunately, this will be a short-lived celebration. As the redesignation process was occurring, Illinois EPA had already begun plans for the next round of designations for PM2.5 nonattainment under the 2012 annual standard.
On October 23 and 29, the Illinois EPA held outreach meetings in Chicago and Collinsville to present the Agency’s PM2.5 draft nonattainment area recommendations and to explain the methodology used in making these determinations. The recommended areas consist of those counties and townships in the Chicago and Metro-East St. Louis areas that had previously been designated nonattainment for the 1997 PM2.5 standard. The recommended Chicago area consists of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will Counties, plus Goose Lake and Aux Sable Townships in Grundy County and Oswego Township in Kendall County. The Illinois EPA is accepting public comment until November 12. Illinois is required to submit the recommended designations by December 13, 2013, and then U.S. EPA will make the final decision on the nonattainment area boundaries.
While the Chicago area will again be nonattainment for PM2.5, we would like to take a moment to recognize improvements in the region’s air quality and celebrate our victories while we can. The monitored PM2.5 values are lower overall than in previous years, meaning the air is cleaner, but the lower standards mean we still have work to do. Please join us as we recommit to actions that will aid in bringing the region into full attainment of all criteria pollutants.
Below is a chart showing PM2.5 standards since they were first established:
NAAQS: National Ambient Air Quality Standard
*Attainment designations have not been finalized for the 2012 revised standard.
For more information, visit the Illinois EPA’s presentation during the Chicago hearing.
U.S. EPA Launches New Online Mapping Tool for Environmental Impact Statements
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched an interactive web-based mapping tool that provides the public with access and information on Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) filed with EPA for major projects proposed on federal lands and other proposed federal actions. When visiting the website, users can click on any state for a list of EISs, including information about the potential environmental, social and economic impacts of these projects.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to consider the impacts of proposed actions, as well as any reasonable alternatives as part of their decision-making process. For proposed projects with potentially significant impacts, federal agencies prepare a detailed Environmental Impact Statement which is filed with EPA and made available for public review and comment. EPA is required to review and comment on Environmental Impact Statements prepared by other federal agencies.
“This interactive tool makes it easier for the public to be informed about the environment around them,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, which oversees NEPA compliance. “Major projects and decisions have the potential to affect the environment where you work and live. I encourage everyone to check out the tool, stay informed and lend your voice.”
The user can click on a state in the map and is provided with comment letters submitted by the EPA on Environmental Impact Statements within the last 60 days. The tool also provides users with the information they need to identify projects with open comment periods, including how to submit comments.
The tool supports EPA’s commitment to utilize advanced information technologies that help increase transparency of its enforcement and compliance programs.
Illinois EPA Launches Annual Environmental Education Competition for Fifth and Sixth Grade Students
Fifth and sixth grade writers and artists from around Illinois are invited to compete in this year’s Poster, Poetry and Prose Contest sponsored by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) and with the partnership of the Illinois State Board of Education. This year’s contest is focused on environmental justice and how to balance people with industry and learning about environmental issues in their own communities.
Each school can enter up to eight (four posters and four written) works. Entries must be postmarked and sent in to the Illinois EPA by February 3, 2014. An in house panel from the Illinois EPA judges all entries to select the finalists, whose entries are then judged by an outside panel of authorities to determine the top twelve winners. Following the awards ceremony and reception, these entries will be on exhibit in the atrium of the Illinois EPA’s headquarters building in Springfield from March 31 through April 30, and the top winners will be featured on the Illinois EPA’s homepage.
All finalists, together with their families and teachers, are invited to an awards ceremony and reception that will be held on March 29 at the Old State Capitol Historic Site in Springfield, IL. During the 1840s and 1850s, the Old State Capitol was the scene of debate over issues that led the nation to war in 1861. During the Civil War, as the seat of government, it was the center of the state’s wartime mobilization. The capitol also provided space for local events aiding the needs of local residents as well as soldier relief efforts.
“You can never be too young to start learning about the environment,” said Lisa Bonnett, Director of the Illinois EPA. “We hope that students can learn more about the environmental issues facing their own communities and have fun showing off their creativity at the same time.”
“Environmental protection is an important topic for all Illinois students because it impacts them throughout their lives,” said Dr. Christopher Koch, Superintendent of the Illinois State Board of Education. “This contest is a great way for students to get off to a green start and help them learn how to stay green.”
The Illinois EPA is one member of the Illinois Commission on Environmental Justice, which operates under the principle that environmental justice requires that no segment of the population, regardless of race, national origin, age, or income, should bear disproportionately high or adverse effects of environmental pollution. The commission is charged with advising state entities on environmental justice; analyzing the impact of state and local laws and policies on environmental justice and sustainable communities; developing criteria to assess whether communities in the state may be experiencing environmental issues and recommending options to the Governor’s office and legislators for addressing these issues.
Information about the annual event can be obtained by contacting Kristi Morris, Environmental Education Coordinator for the Illinois EPA, at 217-558-7198, or by mail at 1021 North Grand Avenue E., P.O. Box 19276, Springfield, IL 62794 9276, or by visiting the Illinois EPA web site.
Go Bananas! Challenge
Put recycling to work for your schools and the environment by taking the Go Bananas! Challenge. The contest is a competition that asks schools and scout groups across the country to “answer the call” and create campaigns to collect and recycle cell phones to help save gorillas. You have until April 1, 2014 to collect and have your cell phones turned in. For rules and registration visit Project Saving Species website. Coltan, a mineral found in cell phones, is mined in gorilla habitats. By recycling old cell phones you reduce the demand. $4,000 will be awarded to the school/scout group that collects the most cell phones and another $1,000 will be awarded to the group with the most creative collection campaign. The winning group will be announced on Earth Day, April 22, 2014 at Project Save the Species website
World of 7 Billion Video Contest
Bring technology and creativity into your environmental education curriculum by incorporating the World of 7 Billion video contest. Challenge your students to create a short (60 seconds or less) video illustrating the connection between world population at seven billion and one of the following: climate change, global poverty, or water sustainability. Students can win up to $1,000 and their educators will receive free curriculum resources. The deadline for submitting videos is February 21, 2014. Full contest guidelines, resources for research, past winners, and more can be found on the World of 7 Billion web site.
Restoring the Great Lakes Initiative
The Great Lakes are comprised of more than 10,000 miles of coastline and 30,000 islands. They provide drinking water, transportation, power and recreational opportunities to the 30 million citizens who call the Great Lakes Basin “home.” Fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching in the Great Lakes generate almost $18 billion in annual revenue. As the largest group of fresh water lakes on Earth, the Great Lakes hold 95 percent of the United States’ surface fresh water. Unfortunately, years of environmental degradation has left the Great Lakes in need of immediate on-the-ground action to save this precious resource for generations to come, which include, but are not limited, to the following:
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched in 2010 to tackle the long-standing problems and emerging challenges that must be addressed to revitalize the Great Lakes ecosystem. It is the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades. A task force of 11 federal agencies developed an action plan to implement the initiative. This action plan covers fiscal years 2010 through 2014 and addresses five urgent issues, or focus areas:
GLRI Task Force:
Information provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
Preparing for Extreme Weather
Visit FEMA’s web site to learn more about what to do before, during, and after severe weather.
Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind should severe weather, such as tornados that occur in your area:
Winter storms and extreme cold –
One of the primary concerns is the winter weather’s ability to knock out heat, power and communications services to your home or office, sometimes for days at a time. Heavy snowfall and extreme cold can immobilize an entire region. The National Weather Service refers to winter storms as the “Deceptive Killers” because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm. Instead, people die in traffic accidents on icy roads and of hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold. It is important to be prepared for winter weather before it strikes.
To prepare for a winter storm you should do the following:
For more information and tips on Illinois weather, visit the Illinois State Water Survey web site.
Green Tips for a “Green” House Party
Ways to Go Green
For more information and ideas on different types of events, visit Rethink Recycling.
Provided by Rethink Recycling
In the Community
2013 CNN Hero of the Year – Chad Pregracke
In the past 15 years, Chad Pregracke has helped pull more than 67,000 tires from the Mississippi River and other waterways across the United States. He’s also helped retrieve 218 washing machines, 19 tractors, 12 hot tubs, four pianos and almost 1,000 refrigerators. "People intentionally dumped (these) in the river and also littered," Pregracke said. "Even 100 miles away, (trash) will find its way into a creek or a storm drain and into, ultimately, the Mississippi River."
For Pregracke, removing this debris has become his life’s work. Sometimes called "The Rivers’ Garbageman," he lives on a barge about nine months out of the year with members of his 12-person crew. Together, they organize community cleanups along rivers across the country. "The garbage got into the water one piece at a time," Pregracke said. "And that’s the only way it’s going to come out." It’s a dirty job, but Pregracke, 38, took it on because he realized that no one was doing it. It began as a solo effort, and over the years his energy, enthusiasm and dedication have helped it grow. To date, about 70,000 volunteers have joined his crusade, helping him collect more than 7 million pounds of debris through his nonprofit, Living Lands & Waters.
Growing up, Chad Pregracke was sick of seeing trash in the Mississippi River. Pregracke grew up in East Moline, Illinois, where the Mississippi River was in his backyard. As a teenager, he worked as a commercial shell diver and began to notice the heaps of debris in the fabled waterway -- one that supplies drinking water to 18 million people in more than 50 U.S. cities.
"I saw thousands of barrels, thousands of tires, cars, trucks and tops of school buses. ... I got sick of seeing it and just wanted to do something about it," he said.
Pregracke got a small grant from Alcoa in 1997 and spent that summer cleaning a 35-mile stretch of the river by himself. He would transport the trash by boat and sort it on his parents’ lawn to be recycled. By year’s end, he had single-handedly pulled around 45,000 pounds of trash out of the river. His operation has become much more sophisticated since those early days, as his nonprofit now has a fleet of boats. And while he has resources and know-how, he depends on each community he visits to supply the manpower needed to get the job done. On average, Pregracke says he organizes 70 cleanups a year in 50 communities. The cleanups are posted on the nonprofit’s website, Facebook and other outlets so people know where and when they can volunteer.
At the cleanup sites, Pregracke’s passion for the work is contagious, and his humor creates an upbeat atmosphere -- something he knows is necessary for the work that they do. His team uses skits, mock motivational speeches and music to get the volunteers amped up, and sometimes they might find themselves doing a little karaoke on their DJ boat.
"We do everything in our power to get people excited about it," Pregracke said. "We want people to leave feeling good about what they did so they’ll come back."
Teams also compete to see who can find the "best" garbage -- a poker-like game in which two bowling balls tops three refrigerators and a message in a bottle trumps everything. Pregracke has accumulated what he believes is one of the world’s largest message-in-a-bottle collections, having collected 64 over the years.
"Picking up garbage, it’s tough, miserable and hot. We try to make it fun," he said. At the end of the day, the volunteers head back to shore and make a human chain to bring the day’s haul onto the barge and sort it out. Close to 90% of what they recover is recycled; Pregracke says the rest gets disposed of properly. He believes that volunteers get a huge sense of accomplishment from seeing the garbage piled up at the end of the cleanup, and he considers that just as important as the amount of trash they help collect.
Volunteers in Memphis, Tennessee, sort out the garbage from a recent Mississippi River cleanup.
Throughout the year, Pregracke’s flotilla travels on rivers throughout the Midwest. For the past three years, the group has visited Memphis, Tennessee, each spring to help clean up a harbor on the Mississippi River where the waters are thick with debris. During their most recent visit, they collected more than 120,000 pounds of garbage in 14 working days.
"It’s a really negative deal, the worst thing I’ve ever seen ... (but) I’ve never been to a city that’s had more people coming out saying, ’Let’s do something about this.’ It’s a cool thing," Pregracke said.
In addition to the river cleanup, Pregracke has launched a floating classroom barge, where his staff educates high school students and teachers about the damages of pollution on river ecosystems. And in 2007, his nonprofit implemented a program to plant 1 million trees along river shorelines to protect and restore the natural environment. The group is halfway to its goal. Pregracke says his nonprofit has already held more than 700 cleanups on 23 rivers, but he says that he’s just getting started. He views his work as a different kind of service to the country.
"A lot of people call me a conservationist or an environmentalist, but the thing is I’m no different than anybody else," he said. "I just want to be known (as) a hardworking American." Ultimately, Pregracke says, his message is about much more than cleaning rivers. He believes his story is proof that anyone can make a difference:
"If I had one thing to say, it wouldn’t even be about rivers necessarily. It would be about finding (a) cause that’s dear to you and taking action. ...
"Change is slow, like a barge or train, (but) once it builds momentum, it’s hard to stop."
Want to get involved? Check out the Living Lands & Waters website and see how to help.
Provided by CNN
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