Environment & Weather
Lt. Governor Simon, America’s WETLAND Foundation to convene Mississippi River roundtable PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Annie Thompson   
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 09:35

Officials representing government, conservation and academia outline Mississippi River sustainability plan 

WASHINGTON D.C. – Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will provide opening remarks at a roundtable meeting focused on developing a long-term plan to protect and preserve the Mississippi River. The meeting is being convened by the America’s WETLAND Foundation (AWF), which conducted a yearlong examination of the river.

The group of state and federal government leaders, and environmental experts will outline an agenda for Mississippi River sustainability based on findings from the AWF’s Big River Works initiative. The Big River Works recommendations were generated by more than 400 government and private sector leaders who participated in forums held over a 12-month period in Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans. Attendees at the June 11 event will discuss the primary threats facing the river and work to ensure the health and productivity of the Mississippi River and its delta.

Lt. Governor Simon chairs three River Coordinating Councils charged with the mission of reviewing state and federal programs that impact the watersheds and working with local communities to raise awareness of and address watershed issues.

DATE: Wednesday, June 11

TIME: 8:30 a.m. EST

LOCATION: U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, Room SVC 203-02, Washington D.C

News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by LAURIE R. GLENN   
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 09:09

Green Buddha Life Sustainability Center Only Dedicated Environmental Justice Center For Chicago Focused On Environmental Health & Justice In At-Risk Suburban Communities



AURORA -- Founder, scholar-activist Dr. Sylvia Hood Washington hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, June 5, 2014 for the grand opening of the Green Buddha Life Sustainability Center, Bookstore & Eco-Arts Gallery (The Center) in Aurora, the region's first dedicated sustainability center focusing on environmental health and justice for all suburban residents, particularly low-income, minority communities.

The Center will spur environmental justice and promote environmental health on multiple levels by serving as a:
  • Sustainability Center: Meeting and training space for local, regional and national environmental sustainability groups;
  • Green Buddha Life Books: Green business to expand recycling "loved books" while creating safe, green jobs through an online bookstore; and,
  • Eco-Arts Gallery: Community space featuring the work of artists produced by recycled books and other recycled material.

The grand opening featured speakers, sustainability workshops in the Eco-Arts Gallery, and eco/sustainability film screenings and discussions.

Green Buddha Life Sustainability Center, Bookstore and the Eco-Arts Gallery are the vision and brainchild of longtime environmental scientist, consultant, scholar and activist Dr. Sylvia Hood Washington. Located in downtown west suburban Aurora, Ill., the mission of Green Buddha Life is to spur environmental justice and promote environmental health. For more information please visit www.e3hra.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EHRALLC.

Loebsack’s Measures to Protect Cedar Rapids from Future Flooding Signed into Law PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Joe Hand   
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 09:06

Water Resources Reform and Development Act will create jobs, invest in our economy

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement today after the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) was signed into law by President Obama.

“It has taken a long time to get this bill signed into law, but I am pleased Congress could finally come together and get it done. I have been fighting since the Floods of 2008 to get these flood protection measures passed and I am hopeful that after completion, the people of Cedar Rapids will be protected from future devastation,” said Loebsack. “This bill is an investment in our economy and will create jobs right here in our state. It is also very important to Iowa because it addresses our outdated, crumbling infrastructure including locks and dams, flood protection and Army Corps projects that are needed to keep our communities safe.”

Loebsack initiatives contained in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) include:

·         Flood protection measures for downtown Cedar Rapids that Loebsack fought to expand after the Floods of 2008;

·         Addressing critical flood protection and transportation concerns on the Mississippi River;

·         Legislation Loebsack cosponsored to explore the creation of public-private partnerships between the Army Corps of Engineers and private entities as financing alternatives for lock and dam capital projects.


USDA Releases State by State Impacts of Limited Wildfire Suppression In Recent Years PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by USDA Office of Communications   
Tuesday, 10 June 2014 15:29
List Highlights How Forest Restoration, Fire Preparedness and other Activities were Postponed or Canceled Due to Lack of Adequate Fire Suppression Budget

WASHINGTON, June 9, 2014 -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture today released information showing how limited federal firefighting budgets have impacted states over the last two fiscal years (FYs 2012 and 2013).  The state-by-state report provides examples of how funding for local wildfire preparedness, forest restoration, and other activities in nearly every state across the country has been used to instead fight fires when wildfire suppression budgets did not fully cover firefighting costs.

The President's FY15 Budget proposed a new approach to addressing wildfire suppression costs, modeled after bipartisan legislation introduced in both houses of Congress.  The new proposal would set aside an emergency fund, similar to emergency funds already available for other natural disasters, to cover costs for the most catastrophic of wildfires, avoiding the pattern in recent years of raiding other critical programs.  This new approach provides certainty in addressing growing fire suppression needs while better safeguarding preparedness, maintenance and forest health programs from fund transfers that have diminished their effectiveness.

"With  longer and more severe wildfire seasons, the current way that the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Interior budget for wildland fire is unsustainable," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.  "Until firefighting is treated like other natural disasters that can draw on emergency funding, firefighting expenditures will continue to disrupt forest restoration and management, research, and other activities that help manage our forests and reduce future catastrophic wildfire."

The wildfire season is 60-80 days longer and burning twice as many acres as compared to three decades ago. In the early 1990s, the Forest Service spent less than 15 percent of its budget on fire suppression. Today the agency spends 40 percent or more for fire suppression. Over the long term, this has meant the agency has shifted resources away from forest restoration and management, research, state and private forest assistance and other activities that help maintain our forests and reduce future catastrophic wildfire.

The Obama Administration's 2015 budget proposal creates a special disaster relief cap adjustment for use when costs of fighting the most extreme fires exceed Forest Service and Department of the Interior budgets, as is expected to happen again this year. A May report showed that the median projected cost of fighting fires is nearly $1.8 billion this year, more than $470 million over the Forest Service's and Interior's firefighting budgets. In fact, these costs could reach as high as $1 billion more than the agencies currently have budgeted.

When actual firefighting costs exceed firefighting budgets, the Forest Service has to engage in what's known as "fire transfer," where funding for fire suppression is transferred from non-fire programs, including forest management activities that treat areas impacted by insects and disease and reduce the incidence and severity of future wildfires.

The table below provides examples of impacts that limited funding had on forest management activities in nearly every state across the country in FY 2012 and FY2013. During those two years, the Forest Service had to transfer $440 million and $505 million respectively from other accounts to pay for fire suppression. Over the last 12 years, a total of $3.2 billion was shifted from other programs that accomplish important forest management objectives.

The information provides examples from each state and do not include all state impacts or region-wide or national level impacts of fire transfer.  In addition, the table lists many activities that were "cancelled."  These activities may have been funded in subsequent years, but the delay still has a considerable impact on Forest Service operations.

In a small number of states, Forest Service operations were not directly impacted by forest borrowing in 2012 or 2013, but there are still long term impacts of the Forest Service's fire budget challenge.  Over the last several decades the Forest Service has had to frequently shift resources towards firefighting and away from other programs, impacting State forestry programs and outreach to private landowners.

View full report


Governor Quinn Signs Bill to Ban Microbeads, Protect Illinois Waterways PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Dave Blanchette   
Monday, 09 June 2014 10:07

Illinois Now First State in the Nation to Prevent Use of Personal Care Products Containing Synthetic Plastics

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to make Illinois the first state in the nation to ban the manufacture and sale of personal care products containing synthetic plastic microbeads. Today’s action is part of Governor Quinn’s commitment to protect our natural resources and ensure a clean and healthy environment for future generations.

“Banning microbeads will help ensure clean waters across Illinois and set an example for our nation to follow,” Governor Quinn said. “Lake Michigan and the many rivers and lakes across our state are among our most important natural resources. We must do everything necessary to safeguard them."

Senate Bill 2727, sponsored by State Senator Heather Steans and State Representative Jaime Andrade Jr., makes Illinois the first state to ban microbeads in personal care products. The new law will require synthetic microbeads to be removed from manufacturing by the end of 2018 and bans the sale of such items by the end of 2019 in Illinois.

“Lake Michigan is a critically important natural resource for our state, and its health affects recreation, tourism and the flourishing of aquatic plant and animal species,” Senator Steans said. “I’m proud that Illinois is an environmental leader, taking the first step away from plastic microbeads toward natural exfoliants, and I’m optimistic that we’ve started a nationwide movement to protect not just the Great Lakes, but other bodies of water with high concentrations of microbeads.”

"This legislation is a tremendous first step in protecting our precious natural resource, Lake Michigan, from plastic pollutants,” Representative Andrade said. “This bill would not have been possible without relentless support from our Governor, the business community, and the environmental groups that worked together for this legislation to pass both the Senate and the House unanimously."

“We are very pleased today to see Governor Quinn take action to make Illinois the first state in the nation to ban microbeads from personal care products,” Illinois Environmental Council Executive Director Jennifer Walling said. “It is great to see Illinois be first in the nation at protecting our Great Lakes from plastics pollution."

Governor Quinn has been a strong advocate for protecting Illinois' environment, including the 2012 launch of the Illinois Clean Water Initiative (ICWI). The ICWI has created thousands of jobs across Illinois and allows local governments to access low-interest loans for a variety of wastewater and drinking water projects.

The Governor also signed legislation to prevent landfills from being built or expanding in Cook County and has dedicated $10 million in state funding to improve water quality in Chicago area waterways.

Under the Governor’s leadership, the Illinois EPA proposed three new recreational uses for the Chicago Area Waterway System and the Lower Des Plaines River. These new use designations were approved by USEPA and will lead to disinfection of wastewater treatment plant effluent discharging to the primary contact waterway segments.

Since Fiscal Year 2011, thirty-six grants totaling almost $15 million, have been made available to local units of government and other organizations to demonstrate green infrastructure best management practices to control stormwater runoff for water quality protection in Illinois.

Governor Quinn has also forged partnerships with seven nations through the Sister Rivers and Sister Lakes program to share ideas about such challenges as agricultural run-off, invasive species and pollution while boosting tourism and eco-awareness.


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