Editorial Roundup: Illinois

 
 
Updated 1/4/2022 7:10 AM

Chicago Sun-Times. January 1, 2021.

Editorial: A burning issue: Building more natural gas power plants hurts the environment

 

Creating construction jobs and providing returns for investors are not good reasons for going that route.

Why is Illinois still building natural gas-powered power plants?

The need to convert to renewable energy sources couldn't be clearer. Signs of havoc from climate change are around us every day. We're seeing record-setting temperatures, stronger storms, more severe droughts, enormous wildfires, historic floods and more. Much of that is caused by burning fossil fuels, which release greenhouse gases and warm the planet.

Yet plans are going forward for the Lincoln Land Energy Center, a gas-fired plant near downstate Pawnee in Sangamon County, about 13½ miles south of Springfield. A draft permit is being considered by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, a bitter pill to swallow for environmentalists who negotiated Illinois' new clean energy law. Two other gas plants, already approved during the Bruce Rauner administration, soon will be operating downstate near Elwood and Morris.

All by itself, Lincoln Land Energy Center will emit more carbon dioxide than 800,000 automobiles. As the Chicago Tribune reported, emissions from all three new gas-fired plants will send more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than did four coal-fired plants that closed last year. That's taking Illinois in the wrong direction. Creating construction jobs and providing returns for investors are not good reasons for going that route.

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Building new gas plants clearly is out of step with what the state and nation should be doing. Just last week, President Joe Biden signed into law clean energy provisions introduced by U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Ill., to require 10% of existing and future military installations to reach net zero emissions by 2035.

Renewables must be our ultimate power source

Gas plants not only burn a fossil fuel, they also are a source of methane leaking into the atmosphere from the natural gas grid. Although methane does not linger in the upper atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, it is a much more potent greenhouse gas. Pound for pound, the comparative impact of methane is 25 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

As part of Illinois' new green energy law, which Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed in September, the state is encouraging people and companies to buy electric vehicles. Meeting clean energy goals also will require buildings to convert to electric heating and electric appliances to replace those powered by gas. Yet the benefits of those transitions can be fully realized only if the ultimate power source comes from renewable wind, water or solar energy, not natural gas.

The construction of new gas plants is partly a result of the Legislature's years-long delay in enacting new clean energy legislation. No one knew if economically threatened nuclear power plants, now aided by the climate law, would stay open or whether subsidies would be available to spur construction of green energy facilities. The delay also created a missed opportunity for keeping consumers' power bills down.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The latest gas-fired plants are probably the last ones that will be built in Illinois. They need to run for at least 20 years for investors to make a profit, and the clean energy law sets a goal of 100% clean energy in the power grid by 2045. But new plants that burn fossil fuels make an effort in the future to postpone clean energy deadlines more likely. The harder it becomes to keep Earth's temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the harder it becomes to imagine people in future years doing what they won't do today.

Enacting Illinois' clean energy legislation was a major milestone. But it will require the full involvement of individuals, businesses and all levels of government to dodge the worst effects of escalating climate change. As Biden's major climate initiatives in his Build Back Better legislation remain bottled up in Congress, it's important for everyone else to adhere to the spirit as well as the letter of Illinois' law.

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Arlington Heights Daily Herald. December 29, 2021.

Editorial: The Bears won't be enough by themselves

To paraphrase Bogey (or Shakespeare, if you prefer), having the Chicago Bears play football in Arlington Heights in a state-of-the-art stadium, is the stuff dreams are made of.

As we all know, Churchill Downs Inc. has agreed to sell the 326 acres of Arlington International Racecourse to the Bears for $197.2 million. The Bears are among the NFL's more cherished and storied franchises. This is the kind of prestige 'get' that happens once in 100 years.

It would be easy to focus on the excitement of it all, and it's plenty exciting. But before Arlington Heights and regional planners sign on the dotted line, there are questions they have to ask about the benefits and costs of bringing an NFL stadium to the suburbs -- questions about jobs, what costs the community will bear and whether the regional economy can offset those costs with benefits.

Even in these early days of speculation, it's already pretty clear to us the Bears won't be enough by themselves.

Ideally, sports fans will come to a game, stay overnight in a local hotel and spend a day or evening in the burbs -- visiting Schaumburg, Rosemont, the Metropolis in Arlington Heights, the new Des Plaines Theater or any of many other sites. We say ideally, because it's also very likely that most fans live within the six-county metropolitan region and will simply drive to the game then home afterward.

So, a Bears stadium in Arlington Heights should boost tourism throughout the region, but while tourists will still come to Chicago whether the Bears play there or not, the suburbs don't have that same draw for out-of-towners, despite the wonderful shopping, dining and entertainment attractions we have to offer.

No, the Bears, who would play a maximum of 10 games a season (counting a couple in the preseason), won't be enough by themselves. Ten games a year does not create a wealth of good paying jobs, nor does it spawn businesses like hotels and restaurants that also employ people.

What our leaders need to see in their dreams is the bigger picture, and require more in this development than just a stadium. We need a facility that can be aggressively marketed in any number of ways, drawing enough ancillary business in the summer and on nongame days to create a good number of permanent jobs. More than that, the stadium needs to be busy enough, as often as possible, so it creates a habit among people.

Putting aside the prestige factor for a moment, 326 acres near the heart of Arlington Heights is an unheard-of development opportunity (Woodfield Mall, when it opened, was on 191 acres). Any development on the Arlington Park land will ultimately be judged by what it brings to the community in terms of public benefits -- in taxes, for instance, or in local employment, or even as an expression of culture or beauty.

A stadium should be judged the same way -- measuring what it brings with what it costs.

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Champaign News-Gazette. January 2, 2021.

Editorial: Will we still be arguing about COVID-19 vaccines in 2022?

State Sen. Darren Bailey, a leading Republican candidate for governor of Illinois, thinks Gov. J.B. Pritzker should stop haranguing Illinoisans to get vaccinated.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, a Republican candidate for governor from Clay County, thinks Gov. J.B. Pritzker's 'rhetoric is abhorrent and has no place in any civil discussion.'

Pritzker's sin? He urged Illinoisans who are unvaccinated to get the COVID-19 vaccine so that they don't take up a hospital bed that could be used by a cancer or heart attack patient.

'The role of government is not to coerce and control residents, but to educate them and provide them with resources to make the best decisions for themselves and their families,' Bailey charged.

Which is exactly what Pritzker, health care professionals and even other Republican governors are doing.

Colleen Kannady, the CEO of Carle Health hospitals in Normal and Eureka, recently pleaded with unvaccinated central Illinoisans to get their shots for the sake of fatigued hospital workers.

'Staff are tired, and I think that's our plea, and truly I would say it's a plea at this point, is to really really really ask everybody out there to get vaccinated,' Kannaday said.

Dr. James Leonard, the CEO of Carle Health, said months ago that the COVID-19 vaccines could be 'game changers' - if people took advantage of them.

'We got a miracle answer in less than a year, and some people refuse to accept it,' said Leonard.

Dr. Susan Bleasdale, chief quality officer for University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System in Chicago, virtually copied Pritzker's remarks.

'With Omicron cases doubling every two to three days, our health systems are likely at risk of becoming rapidly overwhelmed,' Bleasdale said. 'Our biggest concern is we will not have the beds or the staff to care for our patients should the number of COVID-19 cases continue to increase.'

The Republican governors of Iowa and Nebraska urged their citizens to get vaccinated.

'Everybody who has not been vaccinated yet can help out by getting vaccinated,' Nebraska Gov. Peter Ricketts said at a news conference. 'The best defense we have against the virus is making sure we get the vaccine.'

And Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds recently provided video evidence of her and her husband getting their booster shots.

'We can't control COVID, but we can control how we respond to it. We now have the information and tools we need to manage it, and it's up to each of us to choose how best to do that,' Reynolds told Iowans, asserting that the vaccine prevents infections in most people and protects others from serious illness.

It's bizarre to think that more than a year after the life-saving COVID-19 vaccines were approved for emergency use that high-profile politicians still dispute their efficacy and use. But that's a personal and political issue for Darren Bailey, who has refused to say whether he is vaccinated.

It's worth noting, however, that 70% of Illinoisans 18 and older - that's the voting age population - are fully vaccinated, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. And 85% of those 65 and older - traditionally those most likely to vote - are fully vaccinated.

Darren Bailey is swimming upstream against public opinion, without a life vest.

END

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