New campus recycling bins aim to bring waste awareness

Read the full story in the Daily Illini.

In an effort to make campus more eco-friendly and closer to a zero-waste initiative, 20 new recycling bins with standardized signage were installed on the Quad this month, making 30 total recycling/landfill stations.

The project was completed by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC). According to the project’s leader Bart Bartels, technical assistance engineer at ISTC, the center makes recommendations and completes projects aiming to reduce waste emissions on campus.

This zero-waste initiative is part of the goal of the Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP), the University’s mission to make campus carbon neutral by 2050.

DeWitt board, Clinton Landfill owners reach deal barring PCBs

Read the full story in the News-Gazette.

Ending a 7-year-long dispute, the DeWitt County Board on Thursday night voted to approve a settlement agreement with the owners of Clinton Landfill that keeps PCBs and manufactured-gas-plant wastes out of the landfill.

The landfill sits over the Mahomet Aquifer, which is the water source for Champaign-Urbana and about 800,000 central Illinois residents.

EPA Designates Mahomet Aquifer as “Sole Source” of Drinking Water in East-Central Illinois

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a decision to designate a portion of the Mahomet Aquifer system as a sole source aquifer. More than half of the population in east-central Illinois relies on the Mahomet Aquifer system as a source of drinking water.

The Safe Drinking Water Act gives EPA authority to designate all or part of an aquifer as a “sole source” if contamination of the aquifer would create a significant hazard to public health and there are no physically available or economically feasible alternative sources of drinking water to serve the population that relies on the aquifer. The designation authorizes EPA review of projects that receive Federal financial assistance to assess potential for contamination of the aquifer system that would create a significant hazard to public health.

The Mahomet Aquifer system is an underground layer of water-bearing sand and gravel that fills a wide bedrock valley in an area that includes 14 east-central Illinois counties. The aquifer system provides about 58 million gallons of drinking water each day for 120 public water systems and thousands of rural wells that serve about a half million people in Illinois.

EPA’s public comment period on the designation began on March 13, 2014, and closed on June 12, 2014. EPA held public hearings on May 13 in Champaign and on May 14 in Morton. Following a review of public comments, EPA prepared a Responsiveness Summary which addresses comments and answers questions. The decision goes into effect when it is published in the Federal Register.

The Responsiveness Summary and other relevant documents will be available to the public at EPA’s regional office, 77 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago; Champaign Public Library, 200 W. Green St., Champaign; Bloomington Public Library, 205 E. Olive St., Bloomington; Pekin Public Library, 301 S. Fourth St., Pekin; Havana Public Library, 201 W. Adams St., Havana; and Watseka Public Library, 201 S. 4th St., Watseka.

For further information, go to www.epa.gov/region5/water/gwdw/mahomet

Compromise possible in state’s recycling programs

Read the full story from Suburban Life Media.

Manufacturers and those pushing for a change in Illinois’ electronics recycling law are inching closer to a compromise to save underfunded recycling programs statewide.

House Bill 1455 — filed in Springfield late last week — adjusts the funding formula that’s used by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to fund these in-demand electronics recycling programs. If nothing is done, the steep cost of recycling could shift to consumers or to local governments that hold collection events.

Challenges and Opportunities in the Land of Lincoln

Read the full post from ACEEE.

Illinois—the land of Lincoln according to its license plate—has made great strides in energy efficiency in recent years. In 2014 it ranked 11th overall in ACEEE’s annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, up 15 slots from its score 5 years earlier. The main reason for its rise in rank was the state’s performance on utility-sector energy efficiency programs and policies. Energy efficiency measures installed under utility-sector programs reduced statewide electricity use by about 1% of the state’s total electricity consumption in 2013, the most recent year for which data are available. This placed Illinois 13th among US states in electricity savings, up from a tie for dead last in the 2009 Scorecard.

Under Illinois law, utilities collect the money for efficiency programs through rates, keeping 75% of the funds to operate their energy efficiency programs. They remit the remaining 25% to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), which uses these funds to operate energy efficiency programs for low-income households and for state and local government facilities. Both the utilities and DCEO have done well. A 2014 ACEEE analysis found that Illinois electric utilities have exceeded their energy saving goals every year, while the gas utilities have just about met theirs. A 2014 independent evaluation of DCEO’s programs estimated that they have an overall benefit-cost ratio of 2.26.

Unfortunately, in late February, Illinois’ new governor, Bruce Rauner, proposed a budget that would divert $265 million of ratepayer funds intended to be used for energy efficiency and low-income energy assistance to the state general fund, to apply to a state budget shortfall (further information here ). This includes DCEO’s energy efficiency programs that are discussed above as well as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps pay the energy bills of low-income families. Even though the proposed budget isn’t effective yet, it’s reported that senior staff at DCEO’s energy efficiency programs have already been laid off, and remaining staff told not to sign any new contracts or to approve any new rebate applications. Most legal observers believe the legislature must approve the diversion—its approval is far from certain—but the governor appears not to be waiting.