PEORIA, IL -- From a news release:
PEKIN, Ill. – Today, local residents from across the Peoria area gathered i to call for clean air and polluter accountability in advance of an Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) hearing set for Tuesday. The IPCB will hear testimony from local residents along with health and environmental experts later this week on a state plan to address sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution in Peoria and Tazewell counties. The state has designated air in Cincinnati and Pekin Townships in Tazewell County and Hollis Township in Peoria as unsafe to breathe due to high levels of SO2 pollution, prompting the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to build a plan to clean up the air.
Two of the largest local sources of sulfur dioxide pollution in the area are NRG Energy’s Powerton and Dynegy’s E.D. Edwards coal-fired power plants.
“Peoria families have breathed in unchecked sulfur dioxide pollution for decades, and it’s time for polluters to finally clean up,” said Joyce Blumenshine with the Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance. “The Illinois Pollution Control Board and the legislators in the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules should stand with our communities and strengthen the state’s plan.”
Exposure to SO2 pollution from coal plants and other sources for as little as five minutes can cause lung function impacts, asthma attacks, and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Children and adults with asthma are particularly at risk for adverse health effects from short-term SO2 pollution exposure. SO2 pollution spikes from NRG’s Powerton and Dynegy’s E.D. Edwards coal plants are especially dangerous for the 39,000 people who suffer from asthma in Peoria and Tazewell counties.
“It is our community’s responsibility to make our city a safe place for every community member to thrive, and dangerous pollution stands in the way of that moral obligation,” said Larry Carrington, Lay Minister, Secular Franciscan Order, Sacred Heart Fraternity, Peoria.
The IEPA’s plan fails to set tight enough limits on the Dynegy's E.D. Edwards coal plant pollution that would actually deliver real reductions in its sulfur dioxide emissions. IEPA’s plan also allows NRG's Powerton coal plant to have a lenient monthly averaging limit for its pollution instead of a strong 1-hour limit that the Clean Air Act requires to adequately protect public health.
Major polluters often claim financial hardship as an argument to delay pollution controls, but recent action by the Illinois Pollution Control Board indicates that state rulemakers are less receptive to arguments that fail to factor in massive health costs incurred by pollution. Last week, the Illinois Pollution Control Board denied a request by Texas-based energy company Dynegy to delay installing pollution controls at its coal plants in Illinois.
“Dynegy and NRG are two corporations with significant profit margins. There is no excuse for these polluters to continue operating in our communities without installing modern, life-saving pollution controls,” said Kevin Cashmer, Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance member and member of the Peoria Council at Pimiteoui. “We urge the Illinois Pollution Control Board and our public officials to strengthen the SO2 pollution cleanup plan so we don’t let these big polluters off the hook.”
IPCB has hosted a series of hearings on the SO2 pollution cleanup plan in Springfield and Will County, concluding with tomorrow’s hearing in Pekin. Once IPCB makes a ruling on the proposed plan from the IEPA, the plan will require a final stamp of approval from the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules in the Illinois Legislature.
As citizens called for a stronger plan to clean up SO2 pollution in Illinois, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized the historic Clean Power Plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants.
“I’m committed to making my community a thriving, healthy place to live today and for generations to come,” said Michael Inman, Marquette Heights resident, Pekin High School student. “Right now it is more clear than ever that we must transition away from coal and embrace clean energy solutions.”