CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (July 15, 2014) – Local labor and environmental activists today attended a town hall meeting hosted by the BlueGreen Alliance, United Steelworkers (USW) and Sierra Club on the campus of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. The town hall event focused on the U.S. Climate Action plan, which will address climate change by establishing the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants, expanding renewable energy and energy efficiency, and preparing our nation’s basic infrastructure systems to be more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
The BlueGreen Alliance pointed to repairing infrastructure systems as a key part of the plan to address the threat of climate change and create quality jobs. The Highway Trust Fund, which supports 75 percent of Illinois’ annual transportation investment, could go bankrupt before the end of August. The state’s roads and transit systems earned a “D+” grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
“Repairing America isn’t just good for our environment, it’s good for our economy,” said Roxanne Brown, Assistant Legislative Director for USW. “Union members—especially Steelworkers—play a vital role in our nation’s infrastructure systems and domestic manufacturing. Repairing our infrastructure will create family-sustaining jobs making the steel to rebuild bridges and rails, making the concrete that will be poured to repair our roads, and building the components and materials used to generate renewable energy, like wind turbines and solar panels.”
“Climate change is happening and it puts our food and water supply at risk, endangers our health, jeopardizes our national security, threatens basic human needs and wildlife that’s essential to our ecosystem,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Illinois Sierra Club. “The first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants are a step forward as we work to tackle climate change while ensuring power reliability and fostering economic stability.”
Cari VanAmburgh from Clean Line Energy, LLC spoke at the event about the impact that moving to cleaner energy and making investments in infrastructure will bring to businesses.
“Around Illinois and the rest of the Midwest, companies like ours are employing workers to develop new, modern infrastructure,” VanAmburgh said. “At Clean Line Energy, we develop long-haul transmission lines to connect the best renewable energy resources in North America to communities and cities that lack access to new, low-cost renewable power. We’re building the backbone that generations of Americans will rely on for clean, renewable energy.”
The event was part of the BlueGreen Alliance’s Repair America campaign, which focuses on repairing and modernizing the nation’s basic infrastructure systems—energy transmission, water, communications and transportation—to withstand the impacts of climate change and to create quality, family-sustaining jobs.
The ASCE gave the U.S. a “D+” grade for America’s overall infrastructure in its most recent report card. According to the group, there are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks a year. Replacing that leaked water requires energy to pump even more water, resulting in not just water waste, but energy waste as well. A Chicago State University study showed that by reducing the amount of water leaked annually in the U.S. by only 5 percent would result in saving enough energy to power 31,000 homes for a year and cut 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
“We’re here to mobilize people to take action to push for repairing America’s basic systems. And, if the crowd tonight is any indication, our movement is growing stronger every day,” said Kim Glas, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance.