Illinois Public Media News
An environmental group in Illinois says it's happy that the federal government is following Illinois' lead in requiring power plants to cut down on mercury levels.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would force hundreds of the nation's power plants to control mercury and other toxic pollutants.
Max Muller with Environment Illinois said the state passed its own mercury restrictions in 2006, and they have proven to be successful.
"We've shown that in Illinois that mercury can be reduced cheaply, that the lights aren't going to go out, and it does in fact yield very good results in terms of decreasing mercury pollution on the environment that harms health," Muller said.
Muller said the new federal standards are expected to cut toxic mercury pollution from power plants by more than 90 percent.
But the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity has come out against the plan, saying it will destroy jobs and raise energy rates.
Water officials in Decatur say that steady, recent rains have raised Lake Decatur's level enough for them to consider ending mandatory water-use restrictions.
Decatur Water Management director Keith Alexander told the Herald & Review in Decatur (http://bit.ly/ukDw2p ) on Wednesday that the lake's water level is just over 611 feet above sea level.
That's still a little low but within a foot or two of the typical winter water level.
Alexander said that if the water level reaches 611.5 feet, restrictions could be lifted.
The city put restrictions on water use in place in October as parts of central Illinois endured drought.
Champaign Joins Consortium Against EPA Over PCB's in Clinton Landfill
The city of Champaign has joined possible legal action against the U-S Environmental Protection Agency regarding a plan for the storage of toxic substances.
A research project studying a method to keep carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere got down to business this week. After three years of preparations, the Illinois Basin-Decatur project began injecting CO2 from an ethanol plant into the ground more than a mile deep.
Robert Finley with the Illinois Geological Survey at the University of Illinois' Prairie Research Institute said the CO2 injections will continue for another three years, until a million metric tons of the gas is embedded in the massive Mount Simon underground sandstone formation. Finley said Mount Simon offers a big potential at a place for storing CO2 emissions.
"The Mt Simon sandstone at Decatur is 1,650 feet thick, and we'll be storing only in the lower several hundred feet of this unit, and this rock unit is quite laterally extensive," Finley explained. "It covers most of Illinois, southwestern Indiana and western Kentucky."
The Illinois Basin-Decatur project is located on the Archer Daniels Midland campus in Decatur, and uses CO2 from an ADM ethanol plant. The U of I's Illinois State Geological Survey is the lead agency for the project, which is one of seven around the country funded by the U-S Department of Energy, and the second to begin actual sequestration. Finley said the carbon sequestration process has started smoothly --- and the long-term question is whether the gas can be pumped underground continuously without leaking.
He said their findings will be applied to another, larger carbon sequestration project, for which ADM is taking the lead. A training and education center for the larger project is being built at Decatur's Richland Community College.
Eventually, Finley said the experience and knowledge gained from the projects at Decatur can help other carbon sequestration projects --- like the FutureGen project which will bury CO-2 emissions from a coal plant in western Illinois.
Federal Grant to Help CUMTD Purchase Hybrid Buses
Several Illinois communities are getting a portion of a $5 million federal transportation grant to purchase hybrid buses. The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District will use some of that money to replace its older buses powered by gasoline and diesel.
Illinois' list of areas placed on quarantine for the emerald ash borer now reaches from the state's northern border down to its south-central section.
The state Department of Agriculture has expanded the quarantine with an additional 16 counties, plus new areas in two other counties. The quarantine for the tree-killing insect now affects counties in all parts of the state except western and deep southern Illinois. The emerald ash borer feeds on the inner bark of ash trees, and has devastated the trees where the insect is unchecked.
University of Illinois entomologist Phil Nixon says the quarantine tries to check the spread of the insect, by preventing the transport of wood that could carry it to new areas.
"With the quarantines, the state police have the option of stopping vehicles that are transporting wood or plant material, determine where the point of origin is and (take) options in that direction. Similarly, various campgrounds can monitor firewood and actually have some ability to refuse entrance of people who are bringing in firewood from quarantined areas."
Nixon says insecticides are available to prevent the emerald ash borer from getting established, for both commercial and home use.
"We recommend that people consider doing preventive treatment of their trees if an infestation has found within 15 miles of their locale", says NIxon.
The emerald ash borer was accidentally introduced to North America in the 1990s, and first spotted in Illinois three years ago. Nixon says woodpeckers eat the insects, and some local species of parasitic wasps have started preying on it as well --- but those have not been enough to check its spread.
New counties added to the emerald ash borer quarantine list are DeWitt, Marion, Stark, Effingham, Clark, Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Fayette, Macon, Moultrie, Piatt and Shelby counties. Portions of Bureau and Marshall counties not previously included in the quarantine also were added. Counties already under quarantine are Boone, Champaign, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Ford, Grundy, Iroquois, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, LaSalle, Lee, Livingston, McHenry, McLean, Ogle, Putnam, Vermilion, Will, Winnebago and Woodford.
Eastern Illinois University has replaced its old coal-fired steam plant with one the largest renewable energy projects in the U.S.
The school holds a grand opening Friday afternoon for its Renewable Energy Center. The facility using gasification technology will rely on more than 27,000 tons of wood chips a year to heat the campus. The chips are fed into a low-oxygen, high temperature environment, and gas emissions will generate the steam for that heat.
EIU President William Perry says just a handful of American universities have this type of plant, one that will provide some academic lessons as well.
"We can do some public service in the areas of alternative energy," he said. "We plan to use the site, which has more land available for field trips, for K-12 students, and other individuals in the community who are interested in that kind of operation."
Perry says the savings on the energy contract allowed Eastern to pay off the cost of the energy center without state money or student fees. EIU Energy and Sustainability Coordinator Ryan Siegel says a lot of things had to fall in place.
That includes two bills passed by Illinois lawmakers - one extended the payback periods for performance contracts to 20 years, and another allowed pilot projects to be paid for under that same window of time.
Siegel says those measures, and the energy savings from the Center itself, will pay for the $80-million facility.
"The entire project reduced the forward energy and water consumption of campus," he said. "It reduced our future costs, allowing us to pay off the debt over a 20-year time frame."
The facility is the result of a collaboration with Honeywell. It's expected to save EIU more than $140-million over the next two decades.
(Photo courtsey of Eastern Illinois University)
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)
The Newport Chemical Depot is now in the hands of the Indiana Reuse Authority.
The U.S. Army signed an agreement yesterday, officially transferring the depot to a civilian body, so that the former weapons facility can be used for industrial development.
For the last several years, the facility in western Indiana had stored 275-thousand gallons of the deadly nerve agent VX. But that stockpile was finally destroyed in 2008.
Conservationists opposed the transfer plan, saying that industrial development would destroy all but 44 acres of Indiana's largest restored black-soil tallgrass prairie. But Phillip Cox, Vice President of the Wabash Valley Audobon Society, admits that plans for preserving the land and wildlife are long-term.
"There's a discussion and agreements with the Department of Natural Resources where there is around 18-or-19-hundred acres that could be designated as a conservation area, but it might not happen for 15 or more years," said Cox.
Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana calls yesterday's transfer a new chapter in the facility's history and says it will serve as an economic engine for the region.
The National Weather Service says smoke from a forest fire in Minnesota is spreading into sections of northern Illinois.
The weather service says the smoke started moving into Illinois on Tuesday because of northerly winds moving behind a cold front. The fire is more than 400 miles northwest of Illinois. Forecasters say the smoke is expected to continue spreading across much of northern Illinois through Tuesday evening. Westerly winds are forecast in Illinois early Wednesday.
Residents should expect hazy skies and a burning odor. The fire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a lake-dotted region along the Minnesota-Canada border, was sending a plume of smoke and haze across the Upper Midwest.
Those with burning eyes, respiratory conditions and difficulty breathing should use caution.
As people remember the 10-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Illinois Public Media's Tom Rogers looks at the 9/11 Memorial Grove inside Champaign County's River Bend Forest Preserve. He revisits the site, nine years after the first seeds at the memorial were sown.
(Photo by Tom Rogers/WILL)
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