environment

Dylan Blake

During his first year in office, President Donald Trump has rescinded or repealed many of his predecessor’s policies aimed at curbing climate change and protecting the air and water from pollution.

Those rollbacks — along with funding cuts to state environmental protection agencies — have concerned Jennifer Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC).

“We’ve seen that whether it’s in Flint, Michigan, or… the lead in water in East Chicago, Indiana, these are issues states can’t necessarily deal with on their own,” Walling said. If Illinois were faced with an environmental crisis, it may not have the resources needed to address it.

As soybean and cotton farmers across the Midwest and South continue to see their crops ravaged from the weed killer dicamba, new complaints have pointed to the herbicide as a factor in widespread damage to oak trees.

Monsanto and BASF, two of agriculture’s largest seed and pesticide providers, released versions of the dicamba this growing season. The new versions came several months after Monsanto released its latest cotton and soybean seeds genetically engineered to resist dicamba in 2016. Since then, farmers across the Midwest and South have blamed drift from dicamba for ruining millions of acres of soybeans and cotton produced by older versions of seeds.

Now, complaints have emerged that the misuse of dicamba may be responsible for damage to oak trees in Iowa, Illinois and Tennessee.

It has become a rite of summer. Every year, a "dead zone" appears in the Gulf of Mexico. It's an area where water doesn't have enough oxygen for fish to survive. And every year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration commissions scientists to venture out into the Gulf to measure it.

This I Believe: The Art Of Tree Hugging

Feb 13, 2017
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Soil coats my hands and a sun beats down on me. I've spent hours now in the September sun. My pants are covered in mud and I can feel the sunburn start to develop on my shoulders, but as I look back it all seems worth it. Over a hundred piles of turned up earth resides on damp ground. It may not look like much now, but in a decade these trees will tower over our property in a massive forest of powerful oaks.

Illinois Issues: Frackonomics

Dec 16, 2016
Richard Sitler / The Southern Illinoisan

A few years ago, Illinois adopted regulations for high-volume horizontal fracking, but it was slow to get the permitting process up and running.

Those in southern Illinois who were hoping for an economic boom have since seen the promise of fracking go bust. 

South fork of the Apple River in Jo Daviess County
Helping Others Maintain Environmental Standards

Economic growth. Or the environment. Pollsters at Southern Illinois University's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute put them head to head.  Read on to hear which came out on top.

Illinois lawmakers talk a lot about the importance of growing the state's economy.

Monarch Butterfly
Adele Hodde / Illinois Department of Natural Resources

The Monarch butterfly population has dropped dramatically in recent years, and the federal government is now considering endangered species protection for the butterfly. 

Monarchs travel through Illinois each year as part of their migration. Earlier this month, conservation experts and state officials held a summit to discuss the state's plan for monarch conservation. 

Illinois Issues: What Can Save The Bees?

Mar 31, 2016
University of Illinois Bee Lab

Bees are essential to our lives, yet they are dying by the thousands. Experts say there's no one solution for protecting them. 

Guy Sternberg

In the 1800s, Illinois’ oak forests once accounted for 60 percent of the state’s tree population. Today, they comprise only 5 percent and are being supplanted by native maple trees and several invasive species.

Illinois Issues

A state board that's charged with protecting rare flora and fauna has fallen victim to the state's budget woes. Gov. Bruce Rauner 's administration says funding for staff has been eliminated.

Turbines at the Twin Groves Wind Farm near Bloomington
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Legislation introduced in Springfield calls for stricter statewide energy efficiency and renewable energy standards.

Advocates for clean energy say that increasing the amount of energy generated by renewable resources, such as wind and solar power, will bring jobs to Illinois. A large group of bipartisan lawmakers have signed on to a proposal to increase energy efficiency standards to 20 percent by 2025, then 35 percent by 2030.

Nick Magrisso of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition says Illinois exports some of that energy to other states, which helps create jobs.

Amanda Vinicky

Illinois regulators are continuing to develop a plan to reduce the state's output of greenhouse gasses. Environmentalists say they have the Pat Quinn to thank. Or do they?

Illinois has had clean energy targets for years, but this latest effort isn't part of that. Rather, the state's Environmental Protection Agency and commerce commission are preparing for a proposed federal rule. It would reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from coal-fired power plants.

Jamey Dunn
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

  A recent change in regulatory rules meant to encourage fracking well operators to recycle wastewater in drought-stricken Texas could be contributing to a newly detected threat to public health.

Monarch Butterfly
Adele Hodde / Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Urbana resident Alex Wild kept an eye out for monarch butterflies last year. He was alarmed by what he saw. Or rather, what he didn’t see.

“I saw two the entire season,” says Wild, a biologist and photographer who specializes in taking close-up pictures of insects. “That was it — and I was looking for them.”

In Tuscola, about 35 miles south of Champaign, butterfly enthusiasts Kirby and Cindy Pringle also had trouble finding monarchs. “We saw only a handful,” Kirby says. “We could probably count them on our fingers and toes.”

Illinois Issues: Threatened

Jul 1, 2014
Peregrine Falcon
WUIS/Illinois Issues

State updating endangered species list. Bird of prey may be relieved of the distinction.

Don Fullerton
WUIS/Illinois Issues

 Don Fullerton, a finance professor at the University of Illinois and a former deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department, served as co-author of a chapter of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's fifth assessment report, which was released this spring.

Jamey Dunn
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

A new study indicates that the naturally occurring filtration systems in the Mississippi River are being overwhelmed by the amount of nitrogen going into the water. 

Howard A. Learner
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois has become a start-and-stop clean energy and environmental leader making great progress in some areas, but hitting too many self-imposed roadblocks. The recent legislative session likewise reflects both accomplishments and frustrations. Here are some glass half-full and half-empty examples: 

Jamey Dunn
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

When Earth Day rolls around later this month, Illinois has some reason to celebrate. The state has the most communities buying only renewable energy out of any in the nation. 

In Illinois, 91 local governments have opted to allow their residents access to 100 percent renewable electricity, by either buying it directly or buying credits intended to fund renewable projects. More than 1.7 million people live in those 91 communities. 

Jamey Dunn
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Communities on the southeast side of Chicago have borne the brunt of industrial pollution for decades. In recent years, community pushback has led to positive environmental developments. But residents now find themselves in the middle of a battle over piles of petroleum waste that are coating their homes and businesses in black dust. 

Protesters seeking a moratorium  on fracking in Illinois stationed themselves outside the  governor’s office.
Jamey Dunn / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois' fracking regulations were regarded as some of the strongest in the nation when they were approved in the spring, but opponents worry that they will be weakened when put into practice.

Veronique LaCapra/Stlpublicradio

A labor coalition wants Illinois' pollution control board to waive pollution controls at coal-fired plants being sold by Ameren Corp.  
The AFL-CIO made its position known at the Illinois Pollution Control Board meeting in Springfield on Tuesday.  
The AFL-CIO says that move by the board would provide certainty to employers and communities in central and southern Illinois. But environmental groups say pollution upgrades are needed.  

ILGA.gov

Tossing trash anywhere besides a garbage will soon cost you no matter where you are in Illinois.  A new law imposes a statewide fine for littering.

State Senator Bill Haine hates litter, saying "it's irresponsible, it pollutes beautiful environments, God's creation, it creates ugliness."

He hates it so much, he says he goes around his neighborhood in Alton, picking it up himself.

"We don't have a dog anymore, but I use a Pooper Scooper, which is a remarkably efficient way to pick up litter," he says.

Glen Lake from Sleeping Bear Dune
Robert Pahre / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Though Illinois is not famous for its mountains, it has other pleasures. As a westerner turned midwesterner, I decided to bloom where I’m planted. I’ve learned to appreciate both the Great Lakes and the prairies. Although Illinois does not have a nonhistoric national park, neighboring states with natural national parks surround it. All of these are national parks, though the names sometimes sound otherwise — national lake shores, national monuments and the like.

Amanda Vinicky

After several stumbles, an agreement  has been reached on how to regulate "fracking" in Illinois.  A House committee could vote on the package Thursday morning.  

  The oil and natural gas extraction technique known as hydraulic fracturing has been a boon for job creation in places like  North Dakota and Pennsylvania.

State legislators want the same in Illinois.

As do oil and gas drillers looking to make a handsome profit.

Rod Sellers

On the banks of the Calumet, in the neighborhood of 103rd Street, are large swamps capable of being developed into fine parks; the country is gently undulating with plenty of woodland, and the view across Calumet Lake is fine. 

— Plan of Chicago, 1909
by Daniel Burnham 
and Edward Bennett

Design for an offshore wind turbine and platform.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The wind off Lake Michigan is legendary. It most famously contributes to the “Windy City” image of Chicago, provided a name for an ill-fated 1975 football team called the Chicago Winds and was immortalized as the “hawk wind” in the first line of Steve Goodman’s song “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request.”

In fact, the wind blows across a largely uninterrupted expanse of 22,400 square miles of water, Lake Michigan, which is slightly smaller than West Virginia and larger than nine of the United States. 

Jamey Dunn headshot
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

As Illinois and the nation struggle to recover after the recent recession, leaders are looking to the “green” industry — not only for environmental benefits but for its potential for job creation and economic growth. 

President Barack Obama has pointed to sustainable energy as an important area for economic recovery, as well as a necessity for America to secure its place on the global stage. 

Editor's Note: A Few Tips on How to be Greener

Jul 1, 2010
Dana Heupel
NPR Illinois

I generally try to follow this well-known admonition of my era: Think globally, act locally.

However, I also must agree with another famous slogan — more from my son’s era, actually — by that astute amphibian Kermit: It’s not easy being green.

Barges go between the Des Plaines River and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Fairy tales aside, ugly ducklings don’t become beautiful swans — biology just won’t have it. Likewise, transforming a sewage canal into a lush and lazy river may be a bit unrealistic. At least that’s the position of Chicago’s sewage handlers when it comes to disinfection and recreation on the city’s manufactured waterways. 

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