Illinois Public Media News
Peoria-based Caterpillar has joined the growing list of supporters of the FutureGen coal-burning power plant planned for Mattoon.
And the heavy equipment maker is the first member of the FutureGen Alliance not tied directly with energy production. The alliance now has 11 members committed to providing financial resources to get FutureGen off the ground, they include Chicago-based utility giant Exelon, and St. Louis-based coal company Peabody Energy. Monday's announcement drew praise from officials like Governor Pat Quinn and Urbana Congressman Tim Johnson. Coles Together Vice President Anthony Pleasant admits Caterpillar's backing may appear a bit unusual at the outset. "The rest are power generation companies, and clearly that's not what Cat does." says Pleasant. "But Cat's always been environmentally friendly. Just days ago, their headquarters in Peoria was LEED certified. They reduced energy by 40%, and water usage by 50%. So it's something they clearly invest in." In a release from the company, a Caterpillar official says the company has long been committed to technologies and policies that slow, stop, and reverse the growth of Greenhouse gas emissions.
Pleasant notes that Caterpillar also makes mining equipment. He says this move is a good sign that other companies not related to energy production will support FutureGen, and calm federal officials' concerns over cost. The price tag of the facility now stands at about 1-point-8 billion dollars, with the Department of Energy expected to handle just over a billion of that. Two years ago, the Bush Administration pulled the plug on the project due to cost overruns. A DOE announcement on whether FutureGen will be built could come later this month.
New York's attorney general says he'll join the legal effort to keep Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes because the species could devastate the fishing industry and the environment.
Andrew Cuomo said he'll file a brief in U.S. Supreme Court today supporting Michigan's request to sever a century-old Chicago canal connecting Lake Michigan and the Mississippi water basin. Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio also are supporting the request. Illinois' attorney general's office is reviewing the suit. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago has said that closing the canal would not prevent the carp from migrating. Asian carp can grow to be 100 pounds and can consume massive quantities of plankton, the base of the Great Lakes food chain.
A spokeswoman for the Chicago-based agency that helps run the waterways into Lake Michigan says it's unfortunate that Michigan's attorney general is going to the U.S. Supreme Court over Asian carp.
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox today sued the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, the state of Illinois and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The lawsuit seeks closure of shipping locks near Chicago to prevent Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes and endangering the $7 billion fishing industry.
Water district spokeswoman Jill Horist calls the lawsuit unfortunate and says it won't bring a solution any sooner.
A spokeswoman says Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office is reviewing the lawsuit and has no comment for now.
Disappointment has been a common evaluation of the Copenhagen climate conference that ended last week.
It wrapped up with nations signing an accord that sets recommended guidelines for carbon emissions but didn't set any binding agreements or long-term goals.
Adam Lentz is a University of Illinois environmental sciences graduate student who got the chance to sit in on the talks. The native of Copenhagen feels most people left without very much optimism - and many world leaders left well before the end of the talks.
"It was, literally, almost all of them," Lentz told AM 580 from Denmark. "They were fleeing Copenhagen before they actually signed off on anything. I have never heard of any other meeting where world leaders gathered and they didn't take what they call a family photo."
Lentz says most observers were surprised by the unity displayed among the nation's developing countries - one likened it to a new world order. He was also struck by the assertiveness of countries that could be more directly affected by climate change, specifically island nations like the Maldives.
The reward money offered in connection with the shooting of a rare whooping crane in Indiana is now at $10,000, up from $7,500.
Government wildlife agencies, conservation groups and a private citizen have contributed money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever shot the whooping crane near Cayuga in western Indiana's Vermillion County around December 1st.
The U-S fish and Wildlife Service says a leg band on the dead crane identifies it as the 7-year-old mother of "Wild-1", the only whooping crane chick to ever successfully migrate after being hatched in captivity. There are only about 500 whooping cranes left in the world.
If you have information on the shooting, you can call the Indiana Department of Natural Resources at 1-800-TIP-IDNR.
The death of a bird usually doesn't generate much outrage, but Indiana conservation groups say they want to find whoever shot and killed a whooping crane near Cayuga in Vermillion County, in western Indiana.
Someone noticed the carcass of the white, long-legged migratory bird along a county road two weeks ago.
Phil Seng is a volunteer with Indiana's Turn In a Poacher program, which has chipped in money toward a $7,500 reward to anyone with information on the incident. He says the whooping crane is one of the nation's most endangered animals.
"There's only about 500 of them left in the world", says Seng. "And so, they're trying to reestablish the population. It's a big part of our natural heritage, and we certainly feel that it's important that those birds be around for everyone's enjoyment.
Seng says it's hard to figure out why someone would want to shoot a whooping crane, which is distinctive from any other game bird by its striking white color and long legs. He says hunting long-legged wading birds such as herons and egrets is not permitted in Indiana, so it's unlikely that the whooping crane was mistaken for another legal game bird. "We feel that people who shoot animals like this are not legitimate hunters, they're more poachers and thieves", says Seng.
US Fish and Wildlife Service officials say the crane had an ID band on its leg and had been observed alive by a staff member of the International Crane Foundation just three days before it was found dead.
If you have information on the shooting, you can call the Indiana Department of Natural Resources at 1-800-TIP-IDNR.
Adam Lentz is taking a week from his studies at the University of Illinois to go back to his home town in Europe. But it'll be a working break - his home is Copenhagen, where representatives from the world's countries have gathered to hammer out an agreement on climate change. Lentz is a Fulbright graduate student studying natural resources and environmental science. When he was an undergraduate at the University of Copenhagen, he was the president of the Union of Danish Natural Resource Students. He's going to the Copenhagen summit to monitor its progress, and he sat down with AM 580's Tom Rogers to talk about his expectations.
The Urbana City Council has put a two-week delay on a vote to endorse the latest revision of the area's Long Range Transportation Plan. At Monday night's council meeting, some members voiced concern over some of the highway projects proposed for Champaign-Urbana during the next quarter-century.
Alderman Brandon Bowersox says the those projects run counter to the plan's own goals for protecting the environment and conserving energy.
"But then the actual implementation", says Bowersox, "when it comes down to what roads would be built, and the projections for how much we'll all be driving shows that the amount we'll be driving goes up a lot faster that population growth, even. So, per-person, we'd all be driving a lot more in 2035 than we're driving today, to live in our community."
Alderman Charlie Smyth says the increased motor traffic would be caused by upgrades of roads on the fringes of Champaign-Urbana that he says are not needed. He was especially critical of a 71-million dollar plan inserted into the long-range plan by IDOT to widen I-74 from Prospect Avenue in Champaign out to Mahomet.
"Where is the justification for expanding I-74", Smyth asked the council. "It's not in the models. There's a statement that says this will relieve future congestion. But there's no modeling that says there's any congestion, even in 2035."
Smyth moved to defer council action on the plan until December 21st, to allow more time for review. But Rita Morocoima-Black of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission says that will give them little time to incorporate the council's decision into the plan --- which must be submitted to the state by the end of the year. Endorsement of the plan by local governments is not required, but helps in winning state funding for local road projects.
As world leaders discuss climate change at a summit in Copenhagen, environmental advocates say Illinois and other states can be -- and, in cases, are -- policy leaders.
There's international pressure on the United States to adopt stricter carbon emissions standards to combat global warming. It's a policy Brian Granahan, an attorney with Environment Illinois, supports. But even as a debate continues with the federal government, he says the U.S. is making progress.
"When it comes to America's response to global warming, what's happening on Capitol Hill, while it tends to dominate the news, it's really only half the story," Granahan said. "States have great power to reduce global warming pollution within their borders. And many states are using that power to implement clean energy policies that rival those anywhere in the world."
Granahan says Illinois is a prime example. The state will require electric utilities to get a quarter of their load from renewable sources. A new state law requires new homes be constructed according to an energy efficient building code.
Critics question how much good standards aimed at climate change will do, especially if they come at the detriment of the state's, and the nation's, business climate.
A proposal to use tax money from Champaign County wind turbine farms to pay for renewable energy for county facilities was voted down by a Champaign County Board committee Monday night.
Members of the Environment and Land Use Committee voted 4 to 3 against Urbana Democrat Sam Smucker's proposal to place a portion of those tax revenues into a special Renewable Energy Fund.
The County Board recently approved regulations for placing wind farms in the area, and expects to receive applications from companies in the coming months. Smucker says when that happens... the county should use a share of the tax revenue to cut its energy costs --- perhaps in league with other local governments.
"One possibility is that we would simply try to move some of our buildings towards solar energy," says Smucker. "Another possibility is that we would try to go in with other governments --- the city governments or the school boards --- and build a wind turbine to power our facilities. All of that's up in the air. But it seems to me the first step is to make sure the resources are there."
Smucker says his proposal would make sure some of the money made by wind farms in Champaign County, is used to help the county. "When a company builds a wind turbine in Champaign County, that energy is going to get sold on the open electricity markets", says Smucker. "So that energy's going to go outside of Champaign County, most likely. But this is the way we can capture some of the growth in renewable energy, and bring it right back home. "
Under Smucker's proposal, the Renewable Energy Fund would collect about 100-dollars per year from each wind turbine built in Champaign County.
Smucker says he may bring his proposal back to the County Board next year. He says his big challenge will be to convince his fellow board members of the need for long-term energy planning.
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