Study tracks waterbird use of Chicago-area wetlands

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

A three-year study in northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana found that – even at small scales – emergent wetlands or ponds support many wetland bird species. The study also found that, at least in the years surveyed, the level of urbanization had little effect on most of the studied species’ use of such sites, provided the right kinds of habitat were available.

SIU’s 2nd Saluki BioBlitz enlists citizen-scientists to survey wildlife on campus

Read the full story from Southern Illinois University.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the surrounding community are about to find out more about their wildlife “neighbors” as a researcher prepares a second public survey of the flora and fauna populating campus.

Biden-Harris administration launches rapid response team to support Illinois Basin energy communities

The Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization (Energy Communities IWG), today announced the creation and launch of a new Illinois Basin Rapid Response Team (RRT), bringing together 11 federal agencies to partner with local officials and community leaders in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky to support the region’s transition to a clean energy economy.

“Energy workers and their communities in the Illinois Basin face enormous challenges as local oil, gas and coal facilities close down as part of the nation transitions to a clean energy economy. The Biden-Harris Administration made billions of dollars available for energy communities across America to spur economic diversification, advance workforce development, clean up environmentally damaged sites and more.”

Energy Communities IWG Director Brian Anderson, PhD

The new RRT will align federal resources, including regional staff on the ground in the Illinois Basin area, toward key communities experiencing recent or imminent economic downturns from coal mine and power plant closures. Federal agencies serving on the RRT will partner with these workers, communities, and public officials to support them with mapping their current assets and opportunities, navigating and accessing federal funding and technical assistance, and leveraging significant new funding opportunities available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.

“The Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to equity in Rural America begins by ensuring that people in rural places receive the same opportunities people in cities receive to build-up their local economies and create jobs, improve their infrastructure, and strengthen their communities with federal resources,” said USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Farah Ahmad. “Today’s announcement is the beginning of an effort that will provide critical on-the-ground technical assistance and lay the framework for better and more diverse economic opportunities for the people living in America’s energy communities in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. Under the leadership of President Biden, Vice President Harris and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, USDA is a strong partner to people in rural towns because we know when rural America prospers, all of America prospers.”

Stakeholders interested in partnering with and providing input to the RRT can send an email to Contact@EnergyCommunities.gov.  The RRT will reach back out to stakeholders with a compilation of meeting notes, points of contact, and next steps soon.

Today’s announcement comes on the second day of a two-day visit by federal leaders to Carbondale. On Wednesday, federal officials toured energy and manufacturing facilities in the area, including the John A. Logan Solar Project, Southern Illinois University (SIU) Carbondale’s Airport & Automotive Program and the university’s iFERM (Illinois Food, Entrepreneurship, Research, and Manufacturing) Hub. Energy Communities IWG also hosted a public workshop today at SIU engaging community leaders, highlighting relevant federal funding, and identifying opportunities for regional economic diversification and growth in response to coal mine and power plant closures.

Background:

Historical investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act present energy communities with a multitude of opportunities to revitalize communities, diversify workforces, and support energy workers.

The Illinois Basin RRT is modeled after similar efforts piloted in Wyoming and the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. The IWG will announce additional regional RRTs in the upcoming months. The RRT effort is part of the IWG’s core goal of creating a national network of assistance for energy communities that is community-driven, in partnership with federal, state, tribal, local, and non-governmental organizations and leaders.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean-energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

Chicago passes updated building energy code to support decarbonization

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

The Chicago City Council last week passed the 2022 Chicago Energy Transformation Code, which requires that new buildings are constructed in alignment with stronger energy efficiency and electrification standards to advance decarbonization. Most changes will apply to new building permit applications starting Nov. 1.

Some portions of the new code are based on the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code, while others are Chicago-specific revisions.

Changes include requirements related to energy-efficient lighting; designing certain commercial building roofs to support future solar panel installations; constructing residential buildings with infrastructure that enables a future switch to electric-powered appliances; and incentives for smart HVAC and water appliances that integrate with the power grid to reduce demand during peak use.

SIU researchers seek to use invasive copi as baby food for farm-raised yellow perch

Read the full story from Southern Illinois University.

Caring for a human baby is hard. Two researchers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will tell you raising “infant” fish may be even more challenging.

Karolina Kwasek and Michal Wojno are trying to find better ways to hatch and successfully raise yellow perch to the juvenile stage in aquaculture. A married couple with a baby of their own, they use research methods that combine low-tech hatchery equipment, easily copied by professional fish farmers, with creating a new feed that uses the invasive species copi as a protein source.

The research will last through 2023. Success would mean greatly increasing yellow perch’s survival rates at indoor hatcheries, leading to business expansion for more aquacultural ventures and better prices for consumers.

Students protest in climate strike demanding UI fossil fuel divestment

Read the full story in the Daily Illini.

Organized by the Students with Environmental Concerns RSO, students converged by Alma Mater at noon on Wednesday as part of a climate strike that aimed to draw attention to the climate crisis and demand that the University divest from its economic holdings in fossil fuels and nonrenewable energy.

Coalition to present concerns about proposed carbon capture pipeline to Knox County Board Wednesday

Read the full story at WQAD.

Navigator CO₂ Ventures has filed for a certificate of authority from the Illinois Commerce Commission, a petition it needs to get approved before it can start construction on the 1,300-mile carbon capture pipeline.

The “Heartland Greenway” pipeline is proposed to be built across five states, including Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota. About 250 miles of the pipeline would run through 13 Illinois counties

Opponents are concerned about the pipeline permanently damaging farmland and threatening the safety of residents living nearby.

Danville Sanitary District receives energy grant

Read the full story in the Danville Commercial-News.

The Danville Sanitary District is one of three public wastewater treatment plants to receive a third-round grant for energy efficiency upgrades through the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

Armadillos are on their way to Chicago

Read the full story from WBEZ.

Armadillos, with their shells and long snouts, are often found waddling through the Texas desert.

But over the past decade, the animals have started to migrate into Illinois — and now they’re overwhelming the southern part of the state and showing up as far north as Peoria and Springfield. Experts say the shift is partly because of wetter summers and milder winters.

$363 million verdict against Sterigenics in first trial over toxic gas emissions: ‘It’s been a long four years,’ plaintiff says

Read the full story in the Chicago Sun-Times.

A Cook County jury on Monday awarded $363 million to a woman who alleged medical tool sterilization company Sterigenics exposed Willowbrook residents to ethylene oxide gas and gave her cancer.

It was the first of nearly 800 lawsuits against the company to go to trial.

The jury reached its verdict after a five-week trial and one day of deliberations, awarding 70-year-old Sue Kamuda $38 million in compensatory damages and $325 million in punitive damages.

The verdict exceeded the $346 million Kamuda’s lawyers sought in closing arguments Thursday against Sterigenics, its parent company, Sotera Health; and corporate predecessor Griffith Foods. The jury ruled Sterigenics should pay $220 million; Sotera, $100 million; and Griffith, $5 million.