Environment & Weather
Governor Quinn Vetoes “Plastic Bag” Bill, Calls it a Roadblock to Innovation PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Erin Wilson   
Tuesday, 28 August 2012 14:01

Victory for environment

CHICAGO – August 26, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today vetoed a bill which would have removed the right of home rule communities to implement innovative solutions to the plastic bag litter problem. In his veto message, the governor said the bill is more restrictive on municipalities than any other plastic bag regulation in the country, which would have created a roadblock for locals to choose policies that fit the needs of the area.

The governor also reiterated his commitment to working with communities, businesses and advocates to pass a better bill in the next legislative session to increase recycling.

“Justice Louis Brandeis once called states the ‘laboratories of democracy’ for our nation. Let’s not tie the hands of innovative Illinois municipalities that are laboratories of reform for Illinois,” Governor Quinn said. “While well-intentioned, this legislation is a roadblock to innovation that would do little to boost recycling in Illinois. We can do better."

Senate Bill 3442, also known as the “plastic bag” bill, would have required manufacturers to register with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and stamp a number on each plastic bag. The bill would have outlawed the purchase of plastic bags from non-registered manufacturers and prohibited municipalities from enacting their own recycling programs, fees or outright bans on plastic bags.

The bill was opposed by the Illinois Municipal League and 150 municipalities who saw it as an undermining of home rule. Under the 1970 Illinois Constitution, home rule enables municipalities to exercise greater control over local problems. Illinois currently has 209 home rule units whose authority would have been weakened by this bill.

“This bill was an assault on the principle of home rule and the idea that innovations can come from municipalities,” said Mayor Don Gerard of Champaign, whose City Council was moving towards regulation of plastic bags in retail stores. “If the City of Champaign and other towns want to put a fee on plastic bags or ban them or do nothing, it should be our choice.”

Municipalities around the nation are tackling the plastic bag litter problem with innovative methods. Washington D.C., for example, has imposed a nickel per bag fee which has reduced plastic bag usage by 80 percent. Outright bans have been enacted by 40 local governments in California (including San Francisco and Los Angeles County), Seattle, Austin and elsewhere.

Plastic bag litter is a growing and expensive problem throughout the nation. Plastic bags are found tangled in trees, littering waterways and harming wildlife. Governor Quinn is committed to enacting policies that prevent pollution and safeguard our communities and natural resources. Today’s veto received praise from environmental advocates.

“With this veto, Governor Quinn has completed the 2012 legislative session with a perfect record for the environment,” said Jennifer Walling, Executive Director of the Illinois Environmental Council.

“Illinois has a history of upholding home rule authority. This bill would have handcuffed communities wishing to implement innovative solutions,” said the Sierra Club’s Jack Darin, one of 14 signers of a letter from religious and environmental groups urging a veto.

In addition, Governor Quinn noted the efforts of 13-year old Abby Goldberg, whose online petition drive to stop the bill garnered 175,000 signatures. Last year, the 7th grader at Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake, Illinois, was given the assignment in her environmental awareness class to design an environmental project. She decided to convince her village board to enact a ban on plastic bags. When she learned that a bill was moving through the Legislature to prevent Grayslake and other towns from enacting such a ban, she took action.

“I love animals. When I saw birds and turtles choked by plastic bags, it hurt,” Goldberg said. “I’ve learned that no matter what your age, you can make a difference.”

Opponents to the bill and those urging a veto include the Illinois Municipal League, Northwest Municipal Conference, nearly 150 municipalities, Sierra Club, Illinois Environmental Council, Environment Illinois, Illinois Recycling Association, Chicago Recycling Coalition, Prairie River Network, Alliance for the Great Lakes, Center for Neighborhood Technology, Natural Resources Defense Council, Faith in Place, Protestants for the Common Good, Illinois Policy Institute, Surfrider Chicago, Center for Oceanic Awareness, the 175,000 signers of Abby Goldberg’s online petition and others.

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Environmental Agencies Invite Public to Discuss Muscatine Air Quality Issues and Participation Opportunities PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Kris Lancaster   
Friday, 17 August 2012 14:21

(Kansas City, Kan., Aug. 21, 2012) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 and Iowa Department of Natural Resources will host two public availability and informational sessions to share Muscatine air quality information and public participation opportunities Aug. 28 at the Environmental Learning Center in Discovery Park.

The event is free and open to the public.  Subject matter experts will be available to answer questions on all air quality issues including specific air pollution types, monitoring and community resources.  Materials and information will be available in English and Spanish.

WHO: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 7, Iowa Department of Natural Resources

WHAT: Public Availability and Information Sessions on Muscatine Air Quality

WHERE: Environmental Learning Center, Discovery Park, 3300 Cedar St., Muscatine Iowa

WHEN: 1-3 p.m. and 7-9 p.m., Aug. 28, 2012

Each session will be identical so the public can choose the session they would like to attend.

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Governor Quinn Statement on Declaration of All Illinois Counties as Eligible for Drought Relief PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Erin Wilson   
Friday, 17 August 2012 13:57

CHICAGO – August 15, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today issued a statement following the announcement by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack declaring the remaining two Illinois counties, DuPage and Will, as eligible for drought relief.

“Illinois’ hard-working farmers are the backbone of our economy,” Governor Quinn said.  “I am grateful Secretary Vilsack granted my request to declare the entire state an agriculture disaster area to help our farmers recover from this devastating drought.”  I thank Senator Durbin and Secretary Vilsack for their commitment to helping our impacted farming communities.”

As record drought conditions impacted the entire state of Illinois Governor Quinn worked with Senator Durbin, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk and members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation to request a Secretarial Disaster Declaration for every county in Illinois. Today’s announcement makes all 102 Illinois counties eligible for federal disaster assistance through the US Dept. of Agriculture.

For more information, please visit Drought.Illinois.gov.

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Xstream Cleanup Results: VOLUNTEERS CLEAN UP OVER 47,000 LBS OF MATERIAL PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Erin Vorac   
Monday, 13 August 2012 13:01
QUAD CITIES—Volunteers at the ninth annual Xstream Cleanup on Saturday, August 11 removed approximately 47,407 pounds of debris from area waterways and illegal dumpsites. Cleanups were held at 43 locations in Bettendorf, Buffalo, Davenport, LeClaire, McCausland and Lost Grove Lake, in Iowa; Milan, Moline, Rock Island and Silvis, in Illinois.

• 1,476 volunteers worked a total of 4,226 hours and collectively gathered 1,499 bags of trash, 658 tires, 16 appliances, 16 bicycles, 22 pieces of furniture, 37 televisions and 16 mattresses. This was the equivalent of 28,840 pounds of trash, 15,744 pounds of tires, 1,200 pounds of appliances, 368 pounds of bicycles, 330 pounds of televisions and 925 pounds of mattresses for a grand total of 47,407 pounds. In addition, volunteers removed 46,060 pounds of material from Living Lands and Waters’ barge. The material was hand sorted by volunteers and 30,000 pounds were recycled.
Additional items found, not reflected in the pounds above, included:
• Construction-related items: wire fencing, wood, metal, construction debris, road construction sign, barricade, tarp, barrels, chain link fence.
• Weaponry: partial gun, knife, BB gun, handgun without the barrel (turned into police), holster & bullets.
• Children’s-related items: slippy slide, kiddie pools, bounce house, stroller, scooter, Batman belt, basketball, soccer ball, goal post.
• Automotive-related items: car parts, car bumper, windshield, 25 car batteries, car fender, tire rim, motorcycle front end, engine block.
• Home-related items: box spring, bed frame, kitchen sink, carpet, toilet, bathroom sink, vacuum cleaner, grill, grill cover, lawn chair, futon.
• Miscellaneous items: wedding dress, backpack, high heels, jewelry, a concrete elephant, moonshine parts, purse and several drivers’ licenses, wallet with driver’s license, dollar bill, check, cash register.
In addition, this year the following locations worked on beautification efforts:

• Greenvalley Nature Preserve in Moline: chipped 10 yards of European Buckthorn.
• Fairmount Cemetery in Davenport: removed one 50 foot long by 15 foot wide trailer of brush from the prairie.
• Nahant Marsh in Davenport: removed seven 12 foot trailers of brush from the prairie.
Photos of several cleanup sites can be viewed on-line at www.xstreamcleanup.org

This event was sponsored by the following:

Presenting Sponsors: Group O and Riverboat Development Authority.
Platinum Sponsors: Alcoa, iLivehere® and Living Lands & Waters.
Gold Sponsors: Community Foundation of the Great River Bend, Iowa American Water, Rock Island County Waste Management Agency and The Moline Foundation.
Silver Sponsors: Alter Metal Recycling, DHL Global Forwarding, Independent Insurance Agents of Scott County, McCarthy-Bush Corporation, Oystar Packaging Technologies, Quad City Conservation Alliance, Radish magazine, Sears Seating and Wallace’s Garden Center.
Bronze Sponsors: Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Downtown Davenport Partnership, Eastern Iowa Grain Inspection, Mel Foster Company, Midas Auto Systems Experts and THE National Bank.
Logistics Sponsors: Cities of Bettendorf, Buffalo, Davenport, LeClaire, McCausland, Milan, Moline, Rock Island and Silvis. Allied Waste, Bi-State Regional Commission, Keep Rock Island Beautiful, Partners of Scott County Watersheds, River Roots Live and Waste Commission of Scott County.

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Illinois River wetlands gain world recognition PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Kara Beach   
Wednesday, 08 August 2012 14:53

Hennepin, Lewistown marshes attract endangered species, international praise

LEWISTOWN – August 8, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today dedicated two wetlands along the Illinois River that gained international prestige this year for transforming flood-prone land into natural habitats for endangered and native species and plants. Restoration of one wetland, the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge near Hennepin, helped bring back the pied-billed grebe from risk of extinction in Illinois, while the restoration of the Emiquon Complex near Lewistown has attracted thousands of American coots.

During a meeting of the Illinois River Coordinating Council (IRCC), Simon led council members and local conservationists in a joint celebration and dedication recognizing the Dixon refuge and the Emiquon Complex. The marshy ecosystems were officially designated Wetlands of International Importance by the federal government earlier this year in accordance with the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, an international treaty signed by 162 nations committed to the protection of wetlands.

The Ramsar designation is a sought-after accolade for wetland advocates as it calls global attention to local conservation efforts and demonstrates the government’s commitment to maintaining the ecological sites. In the case of Dixon and Emiquon, it highlights restoration efforts that returned the wetlands to their natural state. The sites are also home to several state and federal endangered species, including the Common Moorhen, Piping Plover, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and King Rail.

“The Dixon refuge and Emiquon Complex are international models of environmental restoration,” Simon said. “By returning this land to its natural state, we created a home for plants, fish and birds that were being driven to extinction and an environmental tourism destination that will attract visitors from all around. I want to thank the Ramsar Secretariat for recognizing the work that’s been done to restore these natural resources and helping to boost efforts moving forward.”

Dixon and Emiquon are two of three sites from the United States that received Ramsar designation this year and join the ranks of recognized sites around the world including along the Nile and Danube rivers. Of the over 2,000 designated sites, 34 are in the U.S. including the Cache River-Cypress Creek Wetlands and the Upper Mississippi River Floodplain Wetlands in Illinois.

To be designated as a Wetland of International Importance, a proposed site must meet at least one of nine criteria that validate its global importance. These criteria include supporting 20,000 or more waterbirds, housing vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered species and supporting at least 1 percent of the population of one species or subspecies of waterbird.

The 14,000 acre Emiquon Complex, which includes the Emiquon and Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuges and the Emiquon Preserve, is jointly managed by The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Emiquon met or exceeded eight of the nine criteria including the presence of 4.5 percent of the continental population of American coots and supporting hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese, and other waterbirds including the Pectoral Sandpiper, far surpassing the Ramsar criterion of 20,000.

The Emiquon Preserve is a major source of economic development, pumping $1.1 million into Fulton and Mason counties in 2009, according to a study by the University of Illinois. The study estimated that 17,000 tourists visited the preserve in 2009 to take advantage of the hiking, fishing, boating, wildlife viewing and waterfowl hunting opportunities that are available.

“This designation not only validates our successes to date, but also provides hope for conserving the ecological health of the Illinois River and other great rivers around the world as we share lessons learned at these sites,” said Doug Blodgett, director of river conservation at The Nature Conservancy and an IRCC citizen member.

The 2,700 acre Dixon Waterfowl Refuge is managed by The Wetlands Initiative and met six Ramsar criteria including serving as an important example of the region’s rare native landscape and supporting biodiversity including 148 animal and plant species that are vulnerable to extinction in Illinois. This includes plants such as the yellow monkey-flower, royal catchfly, and decurrent false aster.

The refuge is open to the public daily for hiking, bird-watching, and paddling. A 30-foot-tall observation tower provides an expansive vista of the restored lakes and marsh, while a half-mile boardwalk trail from the boat launch parking lot allows up-close views of unique wetland plants and wildlife. These opportunities attract between 5,000 and 8,000 visitors annually.

“At the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge, 260 bird species and more than 570 native plants are contained in one of the most diverse natural areas in the state,” said Paul Botts, executive director of The Wetlands Initiative. “There is a rich variety of habitat communities, including a rare seep. When standing in the refuge, you almost feel like you are in ancient wilderness. This certainly is one of the most significant sites on our planet to support a diversity of life.”

The celebration, dubbed A Great Day for the Illinois River, was held at the Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewistown, but attendees were connected to participants at the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge through a live video feed. Speakers at the ceremony included Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller and Ivan Zavadsky of the United Nations Development Programme’s Global Environment Facility.

In addition to the IRCC, Simon also chairs the Mississippi and the Ohio and Wabash river coordinating councils. These councils promote the environmental and economic health of Illinois’ rivers and tributaries. The councils are composed of a diverse group of citizens, not-for-profit organizations, and state and federal agencies, and hold quarterly meetings across the state to gather local input on conservation issues.

 
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