Illinois Activists: 1 Incinerators: 0
In what Illinois environmentalists are calling one of their
biggest victories to date, Gov. Jim Edgar signed legislation
in March that abolishes billions of dollars in subsidies to
polluting waste incinerators.
Edgar's action caps a three-year campaign by hundreds of
grassroots volunteers to end Illinois' "Retail Rate Law,"
which guarantees incinerator developers inflated rates for
the electricity they produce. These subsidies had attracted
more than 20 proposals for new incinerators in Illinois
communities, but also raised the ire of local activists who
rejected the idea of paying to pollute their own backyards.
The Illinois House and Senate voted to repeal the subsidy
program earlier this year, but it was up to Edgar to deliver
victory to state taxpayers.
"The governor was subjected to extreme pressure by the
financial community, but Sierra Club and other activists
mounted an unprecedented campaign against the subsidies,"
said Jack Darin, state field representative of the Illinois
Chapter. "In the end, he did the right thing for taxpayers
and the environment."
Waste incinerators are a leading source of highly toxic
pollutants such as dioxin, mercury, lead and other chemicals
known to cause cancer and other serious health problems.
They also hurt local recycling efforts by incinerating
newspapers, cardboard and plastic materials that otherwise
would be reused. "Illinois citizens can breathe a lot easier
knowing their tax dollars won't be subsidizing polluting
waste incinerators," said Darin. "Thanks to everyone who
helped make it possible."
For more information: Contact Jack Darin in the Illinois
office at (312) 2511680.
Club Wins One for Clean Water
The Sierra Club helped achieve a victory for clean water in
Georgia this March when a U.S. District Court judge ordered
the Environmental Protection Agency to force the state to
set water-quality standards.
"At its current pace, Georgia will take more than 100 years
to comply with the Clean Water Act," said Judge Marvin Shoob
in his order requiring the EPA to submit a plan to make the
state set water pollution limits called total maximum daily
The win is the result of a 1994 suit brought by the Sierra
Club, Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund and other environmental
organizations against the EPA for failing to enforce the
1972 Clean Water Act. "For over 16 years," said Georgia
state legislative chair Mark Woodall, "the state shirked its
responsibility to make waterways safe for swimming and
fishing by failing to set TMDLs for its polluted waterways."
"We're overjoyed with the ruling," said Woodall, who praised
former water issues chair Michael Wardrip for first urging
the chapter to pursue the issue and Eric Huber of the Sierra
Club Legal Defense Fund's New Orleans office for seeing it
through. "Now the question remains whether the EPA should
have approved Georgia's listing of only 340 impaired or
polluted waterways," he added.
For more information: Contact Mark Woodall at (706) 846-2281
Pilot Project to Assist Chapters and Groups
"I don't sleep much," said Glen Besa when asked how he
balances his Club commitments with those of his full-time
job as director of environmental programs for the Maryland
Lung Association. "Taking on the role of an activist is
certainly a challenge for volunteers throughout the Club -
especially when it can also mean less time with your family
and lost job opportunities - but the environment is
something we care very deeply about."
Besa first became active in the Sierra Club six years ago
when he learned the Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources
planned to log the most popular cross-country ski area in
the state. By joining others to publicize the department's
plans, he helped protect one of his favorite retreats.
Today, as Maryland Chapter chair and a task force member of
Project ACT's newest organizational development initiative,
he's working to help other activists become more effective.
Joined by three other volunteers and two experienced staff
members, Besa will select chapters and groups for a pilot
project offering organizational development assistance.
Chapters and groups will submit applications and identify
their conservation priorities, be they local or national.
Once the entities are selected, the Club will provide
consulting teams of volunteers and staff in areas targeted
for improvement - which may include expanding membership,
recruiting volunteer leaders and identifying new funding
Although their $80,000 budget will allow for only four or
five projects, Besa believes the money will be well-spent.
"We have a lot of dedicated volunteers and staff to help
this project succeed," he said. "And the bottom-up approach
will mean that chapters and groups ultimately determine what
they want to work on and the nature of assistance they
Interested chapters and groups must identify their needs,
and the task force will provide consulting teams,
specialized training and limited financial assistance to
meet those needs. "Project ACT is a positive step for the
Club because it's returning us to our roots as a grassroots
organization," added Besa. "What we're really talking about
is helping volunteers who give up their time every day to
save a park or stop a road. If our experienced leaders can
assist them, the Club will be stronger for it."
The first-round deadline for applications for chapter and
group organizational development pilot projects is May 1;
the second-round deadline is July 15. Selections for first-
round applications will be announced by July 1, with second-
round selections to be announced in September. Chapters and
groups best positioned for selection include those that have
goals that can be met in the next year. "It will be a
challenge," said Besa, "because we expect to receive many
more deserving applications from chapters and groups than we
can offer to assist. But the more effective we are, the
better the chances that the project will continue."
For more information: Contact Glen Besa at (301) 478-2735 or
On May 24, Teresa Brown will carry the Olympic torch through
the streets of New Orleans. Brown, a marathon runner, has
been a New Orleans Inner City Outings volunteer for over two
years. She was selected for the honor of torch-carrier
through the Community Heroes program sponsored by the United
"The ICO program is so important because it introduces kids
who are used to hearing bullets buzzing by their ears to the
outdoors - I get the most satisfaction as a volunteer from
seeing them enjoy the open space," said Brown. "I'm
dedicating my run to ICO volunteers who so selflessly spend
so much time and give so much of themselves without getting
Club Directors Put Immigration Debate to Rest
At its quarterly meeting in Washington, D.C., in February,
the Sierra Club national Board of Directors voted that "the
Sierra Club, its entities, and those speaking in its name,
will take no position on immigration levels or on policies
governing immigration into the United States. The Club
remains committed to environmental rights and protections
for all within our borders, without discrimination based on
For several years, various Club entities debated a full
range of policy options on immigration. The Board's action
reflects a desire to put the immigration debate to rest
within the Club and to focus on other pressing components of
our population program.
The Board decision also instructs all Club chapters, groups,
committees and other entities to take no position on
The Club will continue to aggressively work toward world
population stabilization through international family
planning, equality and empowerment of women and maternal and
infant survival programs. The Club will also continue its
leadership in defending human rights associated with
environmental justice around the globe.
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