Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 11, 2011

New EPA Standards Could Hit Illinoisans’ Wallets

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has set new standards for power plants that could affect Illinois residents' wallets. The new Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is an attempt by the EPA to improve air quality by requiring plants to install or upgrade pollution control equipment.

Phil Gonet, president of the Illinois Coal Association, said the new rules will come with a cost.

"Well, it's gonna have a negative impact on consumers, I mean this pollution control equipment is not cheap -- and I don't think EPA recognizes that when they impose these rules," Gonet said. "I mean, consumers are gonna pay higher costs of electricity."

But Dave Kolata, who heads the Citizens Utility Board, disagrees. He said Illinois residents will not see a rate hike in the short term. If anything, he said residents might see an increase further down the road, but only if other energy saving policies aren't put into place.

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is a replacement of the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered EPA to revise the CAIR in 2008. The EPA estimates the new standards will cost $800 million annually after 2014, in addition to the $1.6 billion per year in capital investments from CAIR.

The new standards will be implemented in 28 states by 2012. The EPA estimates that these changes will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent and nitrogen dioxide emissions by 54 percent from 2005 levels.

Categories: Economics, Environment


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 30, 2011

Great Lakes Face Pressure for Water

The Great Lakes hold six quadrillion gallons of water, which is 20 percent of the world's fresh surface water. As scarcity grows, there is concern more and more people are eying that water. A historic compact to protect the Great Lakes became law in 2008, and it's being tested for the first time in a thirsty suburb of Milwaukee. Illinois Public Radio's Lynette Kalsnes looks into the law and its history.

(Photo courtesy of Qfamily/Flickr)

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Categories: Environment

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 17, 2011

LIFE ON ROUTE 150: Raising Alpacas Sees Growing Profits

Some new livestock farms are cropping up in Illinois, but they're not the typical cattle or hog farms. Instead, more deer, bison, and llamas are growing up on private property. And one relative of the llama is growing up at over 50 farms statewide. As part of the series, "Life on Route 150," Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert visits three farms in Central Illinois to find out what makes the alpaca both appealing and profitable.

(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)

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Categories: Business, Environment

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 08, 2011

Energy Assistance Program Scaled Back This Summer

An energy program that helps offset the cost of air conditioning bills for low-income Illinois residents is being scaled back this summer.

Because of possible federal funding cuts, the state is telling agencies that administer the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program not to expect any federal aid.

LIHEAP provides utility bill aid to households with incomes of up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

"Though the reduction in federal funding for LIHEAP is unfortunate, the state's decision is necessary to help heat homes across Illinois next winter, which is the program's top priority," said Mike Claffey, a spokesperson for Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Claffey said Illinois could face a 60 percent reduction in federal funding for the program for fiscal year 2012, from $246 million to $113 million.

Cameron Moore, the CEO of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, said the lack of funding means hundreds to thousands of area residents may struggle to cool their homes this summer.

"You know, it's one of those things that's going to affect a lot of people, and I certainly think some of them negatively," Moore said. "At this point, we're hoping other agencies will work together to hopefully at a minimum provide fans for folks, maybe cooling centers. There are sort of some common responses to this kind of need that you see in other communities."

If the humidity becomes dangerous, Governor Pat Quinn could declare a state of emergency, prompting federal and state agencies to provide cooling centers.

Categories: Economics, Environment, Health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 07, 2011

LIFE ON ROUTE 150: State Parks Struggling Yet Popular

More and more people are taking advantage of their area state parks for camping, fishing and other recreation. In fact, nearly 2,000,000 people a year pass through two state parks along Route 150. Yet the agency charged with running them has seen significant budget cuts in the past decade. In this installment of our "Life on Route 150" series, Illinois Public Media's Tom Rogers visited the parks and took a snapshot of their health.

(Photo by Tom Rogers/WILL)

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WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 06, 2011

Federal Grants Aimed at Spotting and Evaluating “Brownfields” in Danville, Decatur

The cities of Danville and Decatur have more money to hunt down properties that may have hazardous chemicals sitting underneath them. The land may have once held gas stations, dry cleaners or manufacturers.

Danville will use a $400,000 federal grant announced Monday to investigate past records and eventually test a few of the sites that may pose the most problems to health or redevelopment. Decatur has received an identical grant.

Danville planning and zoning manager Chris Milliken says there may be as many as 300 properties that have some sort of underground contamination. So, he says the city will have to decide which so-called brownfields receive tests. "That includes sites around Danville High School and some other prominent locations," Milliken said. "The main factor engaging the importance of sites we want to pursue is going to be visibility, and then also the potential for redevelopment -- for instance, sites that are along North Vermilion or other developable corridors already."

Milliken expects it will take about a year to identify new sites and conduct testing on about 20 to 40 of them. Danville officials can use those test results to plan cleanups when money becomes available -- those cleanups could range from removing buildings to removing the soil underneath.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 23, 2011

FutureGen Hearings Planned for June

The Department of Energy plans three public hearings next month in Illinois on the FutureGen coal-energy project as it gathers information about the potential environmental impact.

A hearing is planned for June 9 in Jacksonville. That's near the Morgan County site where the project will retool a power plant to use new technology that captures the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from coal and then store it underground.

Hearings also are planned for June 7 in Taylorville and June 8 in Tuscola in eastern Illinois. Those are alternate FutureGen locations.

A group of coal companies and other firms known as the FutureGen Alliance earlier this year picked the Morgan County town of Meredosia for the project. An earlier version of FutureGen planned for eastern Illinois was scrapped.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 06, 2011

Evacuated Cairo Residents Allowed to Check Property

Residents of flood-stricken Cairo were allowed to visit their properties Friday as a mandatory evacuation of the southern Illinois city remained in effect.

Residents could check on property, drop off or pick up items and check pets, said Cairo police chief Gary Hankins. They can't spend the night and the mandatory evacuation order from April 30 continues open-ended, he said.

Cairo is near the confluence of Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Most of the town's 2,800 residents left when the mayor ordered the evacuation, fearing the pressure from the high water in the Ohio River would burst the local flood wall and levees.

"The rivers are still at near-record highs," Hankins said. "It's just still not safe."

On Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers completed its third and final explosion at the Birds Point levee in southeast Missouri. The Corps intentionally breached the levee along the Mississippi River to relieve pressure on the floodwall at Cairo and elsewhere nearby.

That initial blast allowed water into 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland. About 100 homes were evacuated.

Meanwhile a voluntary evacuation remained in place at Metropolis, on the Ohio River across from Paducah, Ky.

Water levels declined Friday on the Mississippi and Wabash Rivers, but were holding or slightly higher on the Ohio River, said Illinois Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Patti Thompson.

"We actually already are looking at trying to get in with our damage assistance teams," Thompson said. "With flooding you really have to wait until the water goes down."

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Categories: Community, Environment

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 04, 2011

Wind Turbine Project Scrapped for UI Campus

The University of Illinois has scrapped a proposal to build a single wind turbine on the Urbana campus' South Farms site, citing the project's rising cost and its negative response from area residents.

The Board of Trustees' Audit, Budget, Finance and Facilities Committee chose not to advance the proposal, so it won't be voted on by the full board.

First introduced in 2003, the project has evolved over the last year, going from three wind turbines to only one. Earlier this year, the U of I sought an additional $700,000 for the project, bringing the overall cost to more than $5 million.

U of I spokesman Tom Hardy said the university will work with sustainability groups on the Urbana campus to come up with other energy projects.

"I think it's just a matter of going back and identifying those that can fit within a certain budget, and don't have a community impact that this one had," Hardy said.

Most of the funding for the wind turbine would have been supported by the university, with an additional $2 million dollars coming from a grant awarded by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation The foundation said the grant will not be available if the wind turbine isn't built, but an official with the organization said the project's termination shouldn't affect future grant applications submitted by the U of I.

Kevin Wolz with the Student Sustainability Committee said he hopes funds reserved for the wind turbine support other environmental efforts, like campus composting, solar technology, and native landscaping.

"There is probably nothing we can do that can achieve the same symbolism that that turbine would have for campus sustainability in our movement," Wolz said. "That indeed will be the most difficult thing to replace.


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