Gov. JB Pritzker turned his eye towards climate issues by signing the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act on July 30.
“Coal ash is a public health issue and a pollution issue, and the state of Illinois is taking action to keep communities safe,” said Pritzker in a statement from his office. “This new law will protect our precious groundwater and rivers from toxic chemicals that can harm our residents.”
The bill — Senate Bill 9 — prohibits coal ash discharge into the environment and directed that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) craft a new set of rules regarding coal ash regulations, and present those rules to the pollution control board.
The new regulations are to be crafted within the next eight months and implemented by the Pollution Control Board within the next 12 months.
Coal ash discharge was the topic of a complaint filed against Midwest Generation — since taken over by NRG Energy — who owns Pekin’s Powerton electrical plant. The plant was cited for groundwater contamination by the Pollution Control Board in June.
The board found that:
Midwest Generation caused or allowed discharge of coal ash constituents into groundwater at all four power plants.
there was an elevated level of arsenic, boron and sulfates at the facilities, exceeding what is allowed by the state.
the company violated state regulations at its Powerton Station by depositing coal ash cinders directly upon the land, thereby creating a water pollution hazard. The board also found the company did not take measures to remove (the coal ash) or prevent it leaking of contaminants into the groundwater.
The decision came after seven years of litigation. According to a June Journal Star article, in 2012, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Integrity Project, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Prairie Rivers Network and Citizens Against Ruining the Environment all filed complaints with the state, alleging groundwater contamination and open dumping in violation of the Environmental Protection Act and against state regulations.
Some of those same groups are now applauding the new legislation.
“This big step toward protecting our water supply and a clean energy future is the result of hard work by community leaders across the state and their legislative champions,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, in a statement about Senate Bill 9.