FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 21, 2019
Colleen Smith, Illinois Environmental Council, firstname.lastname@example.org, (309) 643-0298
Al Grosboll, Environmental Law and Policy Center, AGrosboll@elpc.org, (217) 652-3866
Jenny Cassel, Earthjustice, email@example.com, (773) 332-6785
Jack Darin, Sierra Club Illinois, firstname.lastname@example.org, (847) 651-0825
Andrew Rehn, Prairie Rivers Network, email@example.com, (708) 305-6181
Legislators and Community Leaders Call for the IL House
to Pass Historic SB 9 Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act
Bill that Passed Senate Would Protect Taxpayers and Ensure Polluters Pay
SPRINGFIELD, IL— Tuesday morning, legislators, environmental organizations, and community advocates from across Illinois called on the Illinois House of Representatives to pass SB 9, the Coal Ash Pollution Prevent Act. The groundbreaking bill addresses the closure of waste pits across the state filled with coal ash, a toxic byproduct of burning coal. This bill passed out of the Senate with 39 votes and now awaits a vote on the House floor.
“Illinois has a toxic coal ash problem and, as a state, we’ve been slow to addressing it,” said State Sen. Scott Bennett (D-Champaign), SB 9 sponsor. “If we don’t act now, this toxic byproduct will be a part of our state’s environment for generations. We cannot afford to stand by while coal ash pollution threatens our water and our future.”
The coal ash crisis in Vermilion, federal court rulings, and years of advocacy from environmental and community organizations precipitated the introduction of this bill. Last year, many of these organizations released “Cap and Run,”a report that documents how 90% of Illinois coal ash impoundments reporting groundwater data have unsafe levels of one or more toxic pollutants.
“No community should have to face the devastation that occurred in Vermilion,” said State Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Champaign). “I’m sponsoring this bill to make sure that throughout Illinois we have adequate protections against coal ash pollution, and I urge my colleagues to support this measure.”
The proposed legislation creates a regulatory framework to ensure polluters, not taxpayers, pay for needed closure and cleanup, guarantees public participation and transparency around cleanups for affected communities, and provides Illinois EPA the funds it needs to properly oversee closure and cleanup.
“Coal plants across the state of Illinois are going to need a set of rules and guidelines to help alleviate environmental damage and encourage safe and responsible storage of the coal ash remnants from plant operations,” said State Rep. Mike Marron (R-Danville). “There are approximately 84 sites where coal ash is stored in Illinois, so coming to the table to discuss a clear and concise set of guidelines to curb the future pollution is imperative.”
“The stakes are high—Illinois has more coal ash impoundments than any other state, and if the House votes to pass this bill, it would not only position our state to lead on coal ash pollution protection, it would also be the most significant environmental protection legislation passed by the General Assembly in several years,” said Colleen Smith, legislative director at the Illinois Environmental Council.
“Protecting Illinois communities, our water resources and taxpayers from coal ash pollution is non-partisan and a win-win for everyone,” said Pam Richart, co-director, Eco-Justice Collaborative based in Champaign. “Illinois State Representatives have a historic opportunity and obligation to pass SB 9 and ensure the financial guarantees for safe closure of unlined, leaking coal ash impoundments across our state.”
“Dynegy-Vistra’s Wood River plant has been closed for three years, offering nothing to the community except a continual threat from the unlined or poorly lined coal ash ponds sitting in a floodplain on the bank of the Mississippi. The jobs have left but the toxic ash is still here,” said Toni Oplt with Metro-East Green Alliance. “We need to know that Dynegy-Vistra will close these pits responsibly, and with SB 9 we will know that they've got money on the line to do it, so it won’t be left to Illinois taxpayers.”
Organizations supporting this effort: Central Illinois Healthy Communities Alliance, Citizens Against Longwall Mining, Clean Power Lake County, Earthjustice, Eco-Justice Collaborative,Environmental Law & Policy Center, Faith in Place Action Fund, Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois People’s Action, Metro-East Green Alliance, Prairie Rivers Network, Protect the Middle Fork, Sierra Club Illinois Chapter, Springfield Clean.