Tag: Chicago

Composting: How a Relic from Our Past could Become a Key to Our Future

Composting: How a Relic from our Past Could Become a Key to our Future

By: Davey Komisar

Chicago is often thought of as the de facto capital of the Midwest. Towering over the shores of Lake Michigan, the metropolis boasts a bustling restaurant scene, passionate sports fandoms, and a rich history of times gone by. Recently, the people of Chicago are seen as champions of environmental policy reform. [1] This week, to bolster the city’s composting levels, Chicago launched a citywide food drop-off initiative, marking the first of its kind in the city’s long history. [2]

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Wetland Fragmentation: How Poorly Regulated Urban Development Has Destroyed Illinois’ Natural Flood Control

Wetland Fragmentation: How Poorly Regulated Urban Development Has Destroyed Illinois’ Natural Flood Control

By: Caitlin Federici

The taming of the historic swamplands around Chicago fragmented and irreparably damaged the Illinois River’s natural flood control, wetlands. Every year, once the snow begins to melt and Chicago paints its river green Chicagoans know that construction season is just around the corner. Construction around the Chicago area has always been complicated. Chicago’s very existence is often understood as an engineering miracle.

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The Midwest Regional Rail Initiative Aims to Bring High Speed Rail to Illinois

The Midwest Regional Rail Initiative Aims to Bring High Speed Rail to Illinois

By: Rachel Grudzinski

High speed rails may seem like a transportation option unique to Europeans, but that may not be the case for much longer. The United States has plans to implement high speed rail within the upcoming decade. High speed rails are trains that run faster than traditional trains at around 124-200mph.[1] Currently, Acela is the only high speed train in the United States which is operated by Amtrak.[2] Acela currently reaches speeds up to 150mph and travels between cities in the Northeast Corridor (Boston, New Haven, New York, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Washington).[3]

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Microplastics in Chicago: The Issue and What is to be Done

Microplastics in ChicagoMicroplastics in Chicago: The Issue and What is to be Done

By: Jacob Regan

Microplastics are increasingly becoming a larger focal point in the discussion of pollution across the globe, including Chicago. The field of microplastic research is burgeoning. They are the subject of the worst environmental debacle in Sri Lankan history–the MV X-Press Pearl Disaster.[1] One estimate indicates that people consume a credit card’s worth of plastic a week.[2] A study found microplastics on 73% of beaches on Lake Michigan.[3] This is something with which Chicagoans and residents of Illinois must reckon.

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Chicago is Losing its Duel with Climate Change: Water Levels Rise and Infrastructure Fails

By: Caitlin Federici

A warming climate has led to drastic swings in the water levels of Lake Michigan. Warmer temperatures lead to more evaporation and record-low water levels.[1] Colder temperatures mean reduced evaporation and greater ice cover resulting in record-high water levels.[2] While climate change causes the earth’s climate to trend warmer on average, these trends do not always manifest in a linear fashion. For instance, when warm air from the tropics moves too far north, it can disrupt the balance of the polar vortex sending blasts of arctic air much farther south than it would otherwise reach.[3] In Chicago, an unstable polar vortex equates to frigid winters and rising levels in Lake Michigan; multiple consecutive years of such instability can produce record-high water levels.[4]

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General Iron Faces Challenges as Southside Community Demands Environmental Justice

General Iron has been making headlines for more than a year because of its pollution issues and recent attempt to relocate. RMG, General Iron’s parent company, has closed its long time North Branch-located metal shredding and recycling operation.[1] For many North Side neighbors, the facility’s closure was a win after a years-long battle to close the facility over environmental health and safety concerns from the facility’s operations, such as two explosions over the past five years.[2]

But there has been significant public outcry against General Iron’s plans to relocate to the Southeast side of Chicago at 116th and Burnham Street. Coalitions of Southeast side residents have been protesting for months, advocating for better air quality and preventing the relocation of General Iron to their neighborhood. The Natural Resource Defense Council has drawn national attention to the facility’s explosions, contribution to air pollution, and desire to move to a predominantly Latinx neighborhood.[3]

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Did Joliet Make the Right Choice for its Drinking Water Supply?

The city of Joliet (“City”), the fourth largest city in Illinois, has decided to secure its drinking water from Chicago instead of Hammond, Indiana.[i] Joliet has historically been dependent on groundwater, pumping from the Ironton Galesville aquifer at an unsustainable rate.[ii] The City has known since the 1960s that the pumping rate exceeds the rate of recharge into the aquifer.[iii] Estimates show the aquifer will likely run dry by the year 2030, forcing the City to seek out alternatives.[iv]

Joliet examined fourteen alternative water sources in Phase I of its exploration.[v] During Phase II, five sources were studied in more detail to replace the existing water source in Joliet, including several municipal Lake Michigan intake systems and the Kankakee and Illinois Rivers.

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Proposed Ordinance Seeks to Reform How and Where Industrial Plants in Chicago are Sited

In response to the recent demolition of a coal plant in the Little Village neighborhood,[1] Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced an ordinance to the Chicago City Council that would make it more difficult for industrial plant developments to site in and around residential areas.

The proposed legislation would require approval of a planned development for any industrial plants within six hundred and sixty feet of residential property.[2] Any industrial plants that engage in manufacturing, waste management or recycling would be subject to more scrutiny under the ordinance, such as by requiring public hearings.[3]

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[NEWS] Chicago Considers Forming its Own Electric Utility Company

Chicago Considers Forming its Own Electric Utility Company

Chicago is considering ending its 30-year franchise agreement with Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd), the City’s incumbent utility provider.  The City is exploring the possibility of forming an electric utility company that would be owned, operated, and managed by the City.[1]  This process, known as municipalization, allows a local government to purchase the infrastructure and distribution assets of an incumbent utility provider in order to operate and maintain the system.

Illinois law includes a provision that permits local governments to exercise the right to acquire, construct, own, and operate a public utility.[2]  Presently, 32 municipalities in Illinois, including Naperville and Winnetka, operate their own municipal electric utility.[3]  However, the prospect of Chicago parting ways with ComEd is significant given that over 3 million of ComEd’s 4 million customers reside in Chicago.[4]  For this reason, it is likely that acquiring ComEd’s infrastructure would be expensive—ComEd believes that the value of their system could be as much as $10 billion.[5]

Chicago is the latest in a series of large cities considering municipalization.  Following Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s (PG&E) Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing and the devastating wildfires in their service territory, San Francisco offered PG&E $2.5 billion to acquire the company’s electric infrastructure.[6]  Boulder, Colorado is making progress towards its municipalization goals, but the process was caught up in a years-long litigation battle with the region’s incumbent utility provider, Xcel Energy, which raised a number of legal questions like the legality of Boulder’s plan, the cost of financing a new system, and the acquisition or condemnation of Xcel’s distribution assets.[7]

Against a backdrop of a federal corruption probe into ComEd’s lobbying efforts and a growing demand for cleaner sources of energy as well as more equitably priced utility bills, the idea of a municipal utility provider is gaining more traction.[8]  Though, this is not the first time that City leaders considered the idea of municipalization.  In July 2019, First Ward Alderman Daniel La Spata, with the support of 21 additional cosponsors, introduced a measure to perform a feasibility study investigating the cost of acquiring ComEd’s assets and the costs of running a municipal utility.[9] The measure did not pass at the council meeting, but at a subsequent meeting in October 2019, Twelfth Ward Alderman George Cardenas confirmed that the feasibility study was underway and anticipated the results being released in the coming months.[10]

*Feature Image: Wikimedia

[1] Becky Veavea, What if the City of Chicago Ran its Own Electric Utility?, NPR (Feb. 10, 2020), available at https://www.npr.org/local/309/2020/02/10/804480819/what-if-the-city-of-chicago-ran-its-own-electric-utility.

[2] 65 ILCS 5/11-117-1 (2019).

[3] Illinois Municipal Electric Agency, Members of IMEA, http://www.imea.org/Members.aspx (last visited Feb. 16, 2019).

[4] Veavea, supra note 1.

[5] Veavea, supra note 1.

[6] Sonja Hutson, San Francisco Offers to Buy PG&E Electric Grid in the City for $2.5 Billion, KQED (Sept. 8, 2019), available at https://www.kqed.org/news/11773007/san-francisco-offers-to-buy-pge-electric-grid-in-the-city-for-2-5-billion.

[7] Robert Walton, Colorado authorizes transfer of Xcel assets to Boulder, boosting city’s municipalization efforts, Utility Dive (Oct. 11, 2019), available at https://www.utilitydive.com/news/colorado-authorizes-transfer-of-xcel-assets-to-boulder-boosting-citys-mun/564843/.

[8] Veavea, supra note 1.

[9] Press Release, Democratize ComEd, Democratize ComEd Campaign Calls for Public Feasibility Study (Nov. 15, 2019), available at https://demcomed.org/assets/press_releases/DemComEd_11_15_19_Press_Release.pdf.

[10] Id.

[NEWS 11/24/2019] #FRIDAYSForFUTURE, Chicago Nov. 29, 2019

In Chicago, a group of local activists is joining the global FridaysForFuture movement by striking on Friday, November 29, 2019. The Deepstrike will take place at Daley Plaza, 50 W Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602. The Strike will last from 11:00am til 2:00pm. The organizers provided the following instructions:

  • Wear black this #BlackFriday as we mourn the burning of the Amazon
  • Bring old clothes for clothing swap
  • Bring signs and posters if you have them
  • Share pictures from the Strike
  • Please tag #FridaysForFuture and #ClimateStrike on social media posts.

The official event page for the Strike can be found here.

According to #FRIDAYSForFUTURE’s website:

#FridaysForFuture is a movement that began in August 2018, after 15 years old Greta Thunberg sat in front of the Swedish parliament every school day for three weeks, to protest against the lack of action on the climate crisis. She posted what she was doing on Instagram and Twitter and it soon went viral.

On the 8th of September, Greta decided to continue striking every Friday until the Swedish policies provided a safe pathway well under 2-degree C, i.e. in line with the Paris agreement.

The hashtags #FridaysForFuture and #Climatestrike spread and many students and adults began to protest outside of their parliaments and local city halls all over the world. This has also inspired the Belgium Thursday school strikes.

The popularity of the youth driven movement has rapidly increased in the 14 months since Greta Thunberg first sat in front of parliament.  To date, 60 thousand climate strike events, in 6.4 thousand cities across 222 countries, have attracted more than 11 million strikers.

*Featured Image: Chicago Tribune, Sep. 20, 2019, Getty Images

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