Environment & Weather
Governor Quinn Participates in President’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Katie Hickey   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 13:35

Joined by Other State and Federal Officials in Des Moines to Discuss Better Preparation and Response to Weather-Related Disasters

DES MOINES – Governor Pat Quinn today was joined by local, state and federal officials for the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, part of President Barack Obama's federal efforts to address disasters caused by climate change. This is the third of four meetings the group will hold before recommending ways the nation can be better prepared to meet weather-related events. Today’s meeting is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to protect our natural resources and ensure a clean and healthy environment for future generations.

“Illinois has faced a record number of natural disasters in recent years, and I want to make sure our state is always prepared and equipped to do what is necessary to keep the public safe during weather emergencies,” Governor Quinn said. “I look forward to continuing to work with President Obama to keep our state and nation at the forefront of the battle to stop the damaging effects of climate change.”

The Des Moines event includes discussions about preparing urban, natural and agricultural areas for flooding, drought and other weather-related disasters. After four such meetings around the country, the group will recommend to President Obama ways to address disaster response and climate change.

The Illinois General Assembly recently passed an expansion of the Clean Water Initiative to include stormwater and green infrastructure projects, a key part of Governor Quinn’s agenda. This $2 billion low-interest revolving loan program will help communities throughout Illinois be better prepared for heavy rains caused by climate change.

In the last five years, Illinois has been through 11 natural disasters, including a record drought in 2012; deadly tornadoes in 2012 and 2013; historic winter storms earlier this year; and floods, including the spring 2013 flooding in 49 counties that broke all-time records on four major river systems. Each of these disasters saw the mobilization of state resources at Governor Quinn’s direction to clean up, repair damage, speed recovery and reduce the impact of future disasters. Governor Quinn announced a $45 million state relief package to help Illinois local governments recover from the deadly November tornadoes after FEMA denied federal disaster assistance for local governments. The Governor was also successful in securing more than $23.5 million in other forms of federal aid to assist with tornado recovery in the impacted Illinois communities.

Governor Quinn is leading the charge toward sustainable living to fight the root causes of climate change.

Since taking office, Governor Quinn has led Illinois on a path to sustainability. A new report found that Illinois leads the nation in the number of communities using renewable electricity. In February, the U.S. Green Building Council ranked Illinois number one among all 50 states in the sustainable building design movement with more than 29 million square feet of certified green buildings, or 2.29 square feet for every resident.

The Governor set a green example for all Illinois residents by transforming the 159-year old Illinois Executive Mansion, visited by Abraham Lincoln and six other of our nation’s Presidents, into a model of sustainable living. The mansion features its own vegetable garden, rain barrels, a compost pile and solar panels. The recent addition of a chicken coop helps composting efforts and has the added benefit of producing fresh eggs for use in the mansion’s kitchen.

In 2011, the Illinois Executive Mansion became the first in the nation to install a charging station for electric vehicles. In 2012, LED lighting was installed throughout the Executive Mansion. The new system consumes 90 percent less energy, lasts for 10 years and poses less of a threat to historic artifacts. Additionally, digital water meters were installed to better monitor usage; aging air conditioners were replaced with an energy efficient system.

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Governor Quinn Statement on House Passage of Illinois Clean Water Initiative Expansion PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Dave Blanchette   
Friday, 09 May 2014 13:04

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today issued the following statement regarding Illinois House passage of a bill to expand the Illinois Clean Water Initiative to include stormwater and green infrastructure projects, a key part of the Governor’s agenda. Governor Quinn called for this measure in his 2014 State of the State address as part of his agenda to create more jobs and build an economy that works for everyone. Senate Bill 2780 has previously passed the Illinois Senate and now heads to the Governor’s desk.

“I want to commend Senator Dan Kotowski and Representative Elaine Nekritz, and all the legislators who voted for this important measure, which will help communities throughout Illinois be better prepared for the next heavy rain.

“Last spring’s record rainfall and flooding hit many communities hard. We can help communities be better prepared to handle stormwater by including these types of projects in my Clean Water Initiative.

“Stormwater is also a significant contributor to surface water pollution. This legislation will allow local governments to secure low-interest loans for projects that prevent flooding and remove pollutants from stormwater.”

Governor Quinn first launched the $1 billion Clean Water Initiative in his 2012 State of the State address, and since then dozens of communities have secured low-interest loans through the program for drinking and wastewater infrastructure improvements. Due to the overwhelming success of the program, Governor Quinn announced in his 2014 State of the State address that he was doubling the available financing to $2 billion and he asked the General Assembly to expand the allowable projects to include stormwater and green infrastructure projects.

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WE NEED VOLUNTEERS PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Natalie Linville-Mass   
Tuesday, 06 May 2014 08:02

Hampton, IL/May, 2014- This coming Saturday, May 10th Living Lands & Waters (LL&W) is searching for volunteers to participate in their newest program, the Invasive Species Removal Project.  This project focuses on eradicating Japanese Honeysuckle, a species with the ability to invade natural systems, multiplying so quickly that it often dominates all other greenery, sometimes leading to the exclusion of the native species.

"The problem is so immense and widespread that we need all the help we can get. If you're looking to make a really big difference and see the real results in a short period of time, this is the project for you." said President & Founder of LL&W, Chad Pregracke.

Volunteers will use hand saws, loppers, and weed wrenches to remove the honeysuckle.  Flagging each location where honeysuckle is removed is crucial, so volunteers will carry flags and mark locations they visit along the way. LL&W will provide all the necessary tools, hard hats, gloves, protective eye wear, as well as lunch. They just ask volunteers to wear boots/athletic shoes (closed toe are a must), long pants, light-colored clothing for hot weather and layers of warm clothing during cooler days. Due to the nature of the work, LL&W is limiting this event to volunteers 16 years of age and above.

Alternative time slots are available in May. Please visit http://livinglandsandwaters.org/get-involved/invasive-species-removal-project/ to register!

About Living Lands & Waters – Chad Pregracke started Living Lands & Waters in 1998 as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the beautification and restoration of America’s major rivers and to the education of people about environmental issues. From his single boat beginning, LL&W has grown to an internationally known organization with a fleet of barges and workboats.  LL&W engages thousands of volunteers each year in river cleanups, hands-on environmental education workshops, the Great Mississippi River Cleanup, Adopt-a- River-Mile programs and the Million Trees Project.

 
Branstad, Reynolds HSEMD Director Schouten encourage storm readiness PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Office of the Governor of the State of Iowa   
Monday, 05 May 2014 09:37

(DES MOINES) – Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds were joined today at their weekly news conference by Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department (HSEMD) Director Mark Schouten to encourage Iowans to be prepared during severe weather season.

“Lieutenant Governor Reynolds and I offer our sympathy to families who lost loved ones in the storms that raced across Iowa on April 27th, and our support to the communities that sustained damage,” said Branstad. “Being prepared for a storm, no matter the season, is the best way to protect yourself and families from dangerous weather.”

BE PREPARED: DOWNLOAD YOUR EMERGECNY SUPPLY CHECKLIST

“Governor Branstad and I, along with Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department, stand ready to assist Iowans and their communities when severe weather strikes,” said Reynolds. “It’s critically important for Iowans to take the necessary precautions ahead of inclement weather. We urge Iowans to take time to prepare for this spring and summer’s storm season.”

Iowa HSEMD outlined 3 easy steps Iowans can take to be ready for severe weather:

Step 1: Be aware

  • The most important thing you can do is to stay aware of the potential for bad weather in your area.
  • Tune into local television and radio stations, purchase a weather radio, or install a weather alert app onto your mobile phone to receive the most up-to-date weather information.
  • When weather alerts are issued, act quickly to stay safe.

Step 2: Make An Emergency Plan

  • Sit down with your family and talk about what you will do if there is a severe weather alert issued for your area or if there is a danger of flooding.
  • Don’t forget to make plans for those with special needs, such as elderly family members, and also for your pets.

Step 3: Build an Emergency Supply Kit

Keep a kit at home and in your car in case you must shelter in place or quickly evacuate your home.

Include in your kit items such as:

  • Water and non-perishable food for 3-5 days
  • A first aid kit
  • A battery-operated flashlight and radio along with extra batteries
  • Special items, such as prescription medications, baby formula, diapers and pet food
  • Copies of important documents, such as birth certificates and insurance information.

“At the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department, our job is to ensure Iowa and Iowans are prepared and ready to respond to emergencies and disasters,” said Iowa HSEMD Director Mark Schouten. “Our message to all Iowans is to take steps now to be prepared for the next round of severe weather. Just taking a few minutes today to think it through and know what you will do can help keep you and your family safe.”

To get additional details and tools, including a brochure that outlines how to plan and prepare, visit www.beready.iowa.gov.

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"We don't know what normal is anymore": Confronting Extreme Weather on U.S. Farms PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Jackie Wei   
Friday, 02 May 2014 13:52

Matt Russell has seen strange weather before.  As a fifth-generation Iowa farmer, he’s used to being at the whims of the skies.  But ominous changes are underway at his Coyote Run Farm, and lately, he’s been trying to cope with “the wrong weather at the wrong time.”

Like Matt, I grew up as the fifth generation on my family’s farm.  In fact, my 83-year-old grandfather, Art, is out planting corn with my dad this week. In Art’s eight decades in the field, he’s seen his share of tough times.  When he was just a little boy, he saw his family’s crops wither up, die, and blow away into the Dust Bowl.  Like many American families, the Great Depression tested our family’s commitment to farming.

But we persevered, and out of the devastation of the Dust Bowl, a new era of hope and progress for American farmers was born.  Under the leadership of the US Department of Agriculture, farmers began viewing soil conservation as a key risk management tool.  On our farm and many others, we learned that protecting the soil was paramount to surviving future dry years.  And although dry times like the 1950s and 1980s were challenging, the conservation lessons learned from the Dust Bowl era lessened their impact on my family’s operations.

Now, we are at another critical moment for agriculture.  Climate change is bringing more frequent and severe weather challenges, unlike any that farmers have seen before, and already farmers are feeling the effects.  Countless scientists agree that climate change will affect every part of our food system—from crop yields to food processing and distribution.  More dry days and hot nights will stress already limited water resources.  Ironically, when it does rain, it will pour, exacerbating soil erosion.  Farmers will need to confront new challenges from weeds, diseases and pests. But farmers don’t need a scientist to tell them times are tough.  They can just look out their windows.  Listen to what Arlyn Schipper, a Conrad, Iowa farmer, has to say:

So how will we confront the climate challenge facing American farmers?  Will we ignore the ominous reality of climate change?  Or will we take steps to improve farms’ resiliency to extreme weather and prevent the worst impacts of climate change?

We know what needs to be done. We learned after the Dust Bowl that farmers have one of the best “insurance policies” right beneath their boots—their very own soil.  Healthy soil is more resilient to extreme weather events like droughts and floods because it can filter and hold more water.   The new “normal” of climate change calls for us to redouble our efforts to build healthy soil.  NRDC’s “Soil Matters” report describes how we can build farms that are more resilient to climate change by encouraging low risk, water-smart practices that regenerate soil.  Under NRDC’s proposal, farmers who adopt proven techniques, like cover cropping, to reduce their risk of crop loss would receive a discount on their crop insurance policies.  This could be done under existing law, and could have widespread benefits for farmers, taxpayers, and the environment.

But the longer we wait, the harder the job will be. Scientists agree that the increased concentration of heat-trapping carbon pollution in our atmosphere is the key reason that our climate is changing, and power plants are responsible for nearly half of that pollution.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first carbon pollution limits for future power plants, and is on track to propose limits for existing power plants by early June.  These new protections will help reduce the carbon pollution that is threatening American agriculture and our food security.

After the Dust Bowl, American farmers didn’t throw up their hands in despair.  They got to work, planting windbreaks, building terraces and making conservation a way of life.  Now it’s our turn.  Climate change is a tough challenge, but we know what we need to do.  We need to regenerate our landscapes to build resilient farms, and we need protections from the power plant carbon pollution that’s threating our food supply.  It’s time to act.  The next five generations of farmers depend on it.

 
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