PEORIA, IL -- What better activity for Earth Day than a rally for clean energy, clean jobs and environmental justice.
That occurred on April 23 at an Illinois People's Action event at Peoria's Zion Baptist Church, a predominately black church on Peoria's south side.
IPA, based in Bloomington, Il., states that it's a faith-based group. It works with churches to alert people about issues that affect minorities and the poor.
The April 23 event attracted Illinois Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth and Illinois Sen. Dave Koehler, both of Peoria, to discuss the Clean Jobs Bill, legislation working its way through the Illinois General Assembly.
But first there were speakers telling the audience of perhaps 75 people about the issues.It began with a sexist prayer "our father in heaven" but soon got better, as IPA members discussed the issues.
"People of color are affected more (from pollution) said Ronnie Lee.
"Edwards (the power plant) is eight miles from us. We cannot leave this fight to the environmental groups. We must keep our power to ourselves," he said.
Dee Taylor said coal in Illinois generates only 4,000 jobs, but clean energy will generate 30,000 jobs. "We need an energy revolution: clean renewable energy, safe jobs, safe energy."
Lou Washington talked about her family members with asthma, and said "60 percent of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal (power) plant"
Blacks have the highest rates of asthma in the population, she said. Black children are seven times more likely to die from asthma than white children. "We have to stop it," she said.
Gerome Jackson said he and others need the jobs clean energy would provide. "The jobs from this bill would help save the world and can't be shipped overseas," he said to much applause.
Joyce Harant said the Obama administration wants a 35 percent reduction by 2030 in carbon emissions. The Clean Jobs bill would produce 32,000 jobs and billions in investment in the state. Iowa is already pursuing this, she said.
"This is the way to take control of energy," she said, adding "a solar farm" could be built nearby.
Rev. Marvin Hightower, first vice president of the Peoria NAACP, said it's an environmental justice issue. "We will fight," he said.
Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth said the bill as written is flawed but can be improved.
People affected by pollution should benefit from clean jobs, she said. "I'm not willing to allow black, brown and low income people to be taken advantage of," she said. "We have to talk about economic injustice happening."
An organizer for the IPA said there are several issues that must be addressed in the bill before it becomes law. These include no incentives for coal conversion to natural gas; no corporate bailouts, jobs targeted for low income communities that will include ex-offenders; protection for consumers if they take out loans for energy efficiency; and fees on polluters to finance the project.
Rev. Cliff Parks said "this is the beginning of the fight."
Sen. Dave Koehler said the Obama administration's rules level the playing field for all states, a big advantage. The bill in Illinois "is not going to be perfect but we will make your feelings heard," he said. A key issue is jobs, he added.
-- Elaine Hopkins