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Wednesday, May 20, 2009 04:44 am

Sierra Club to Shimkus: Clean energy is no ‘assault on democracy’

“There’s no clean coal,” but economy can benefit from green jobs

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Disposal of waste products from mining in slurry ponds like this one in North Carolina has caused water pollution and degradation of wells.
PHOTO BY JEFF WILLHELM/MCT

As U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, continues to condemn cap-and-trade legislation to limit carbon emissions, the Sangamon Valley Group of the Sierra Club prepares to fire back.

During a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on April 22, Shimkus sparked outrage in environmental groups across the nation, including the local Sierra Club, when he made the following comments about the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009:

“This is the largest assault on democracy and freedom in this country that I have ever experienced. I have lived through some tough times in Congress — impeachment, two wars, terrorist attacks. I fear this more than all the above activities that have happened.”

At Tuesday’s Liberty Brew & View movie at the Capital City Bar & Grill, Will Reynolds, a Sierra club board member, introduced a petition that will be sent to Shimkus questioning his view on climate change.

“We’re shocked by your statements denying the scientific consensus behind global warming and calling legislation to address the problem ‘the largest assault on democracy and freedom in this country that I’ve ever experienced,’” the petition states. “Our regional economy can best be recharged by green jobs through renewable energy and efficiency projects.”

The Sierra Club decided to pen the letter to Shimkus, Reynolds explains, because many members felt that their individual comments have been ignored. They hope their collective effort will garner more attention from the representative’s office. A second petition asks Gov. Pat Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan to avoid giving Shimkus the advantage as an incumbent when congressional districts are redrawn after the 2010 census.

Reynolds says other states such as Colorado and Wyoming have attracted 500-plus workers to help build wind turbines. Central Illinois will suffer, he adds, if its politicians continue to focus on the fossil fuel industry instead of inviting similar renewable energy sources into the area.

“New jobs are coming from clean energy and efficiency projects,” Reynolds says. “Either we can work to bring those to central Illinois, or we can watch other places get those jobs while we chase after the coal industry.”

The Sierra Club also requests that Shimkus support new legislation that combats climate change and diversifies the energy market. Shimkus, as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, will likely vote on the clean energy bill by the end of this week. The legislation includes provisions for cap-and-trade and carbon capture and sequestration.

Steve Tomaszewski, Shimkus’ press secretary, says the congressman’s vote will be a “definite no.”

Next week the Sierra Club returns to the beginning of the coal cycle, with a presentation by state conservation chair Joyce Blumenshine on longwall mining and its effect on land and water resources.

“Longwall is an example of the fact that there’s no clean coal,” Reynolds says. “From start to finish, it’s a destructive process.”

This controversial mining method removes the entire coal seam and often leads to land subsidence. It’s currently being used immediately south of Springfield, under 200,000 acres of farmland in Montgomery County.

Blumenshine has visited longwall mining sites, observing “huge cracks and wavy surfaces” on adjoining roads and stagnant water pooling in once-flat farmland. She plans to provide attendees with further examples of the method’s effects.

“The public is really being misled in the that the discussion about coal from the industry side never deals with the mining impacts on the environment,” Blumenshine says. “We’ll be looking at immediate concerns for Illinois prime ‘ag’ land that’s due to longwall mining moving into Montgomery County and likely other counties unless something is done about it.”

The longwall mining presentation begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 26 in the North Carnegie Room of the Springfield Public Library, 326 S. Seventh St. a

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