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Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006 01:00 am

Not our fault

Springfield isn't to blame for Illinois' pollution problem

According to a study released by the Center for American Progress and the Center for Progressive Reform, at the end of November, 8.7 million Illinoisans — 70 percent of the state’s residents — are breathing dangerous levels of smog.

That makes sense, given that Illinois leads the nation in the number of new coal-fired power plants planned, 12, and the fact that environmental groups have singled out these facilities as top contributors to air pollution.

The findings underscore the importance of the agreement reached between Springfield’s public utility company, City Water, Light & Power, and the Sierra Club for the city’s new 200-megawatt generator.

According to the report’s authors, Rena Steinzor and Margaret Clune, Illinois is one of 10 states, with a combined 158,000 facilities permitted to emit ozone pollution, that “lack a sufficient number of inspectors to monitor industrial emissions and enforce the law.”

Here in Illinois, for example, 36 inspectors are monitoring 6,750 sites that are licensed to pollute — about one inspector for every 188 sites.

The top ozone-producing facilities are Acme Steel, in Cook County; Shell Oil’s Wood River manufacturing complex and Amoco’s Wood River Terminal, both in Madison County; Chrysler’s Belvidere Assembly Plant, in Boone County; and World Color Press’ Salem-Gravure Division, in Williamson County, according to the report, Paper Tigers and Killer Air: How Weak Enforcement Leaves Communities Vulnerable to Smog.

No matter how unpopular it is with some local critics, the CWLP-Sierra Club deal reduces annual global-warming pollution by 1.2 billion pounds — the rough equivalent of every Springfield resident’s giving up his or her car.

The plan — which, according to Sierra Club representatives, is “the most ambitious in the nation for a utility” — requires the CWLP to purchase wind energy and add pollution controls to reduce emissions of global-warming pollutants by 25 percent by 2012.

Construction on the plant began on Nov. 30 with a groundbreaking ceremony, after the Environmental Appeals Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rejected an appeal to keep the project from moving forward.

Contact R.L. Nave at rnave@illinoistimes.com

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