EPA ACCUSED OF IGNORING TOXIC CHEMICALS
The Intercept, an investigative unit, is reporting that whistleblowers have provided evidence that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not adequately assessed the health risks posed by several new chemicals on the ground and that they are corrosive. The explosive report is one of a 10-part series.
“Managers in the New Chemicals Division have repeatedly and incorrectly used the idea that a chemical may cause irritation to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract as an excuse to avoid assessing the risk of other harms it may cause. Those harms include cancer, miscarriage, and neurotoxicity, according to the whistleblowers, who work as health assessors in the division.
In some cases described in a complaint that the whistleblowers shared with The Intercept and will soon submit to the EPA inspector general, “the risks were calculated, found to be significant, and later deleted from official documents,” the Intercept said.
HELP FOR LOCAL COOLING AND HEATING COSTS
Utility bill assistance will be available on September 1st. Families struggling to pay their heating and cooling bill were encouraged to apply for the state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. Operated by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, LIHEAP provides assistance to more than 250,000 Illinois residents each year.
The summer application process closed in May, however, state officials indicate that some assistance may still be available if funds are not exhausted. Residents are asked to call the LIHEAP Hotline at 1-877-411-WARM (9276) for more information.
The Pritzker Administration said it has invested $386 million into the program between September 2021 and May 2022 with households receiving $1,025 toward their bill on average. Annual eligibility levels are determined based on available funding and may not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Additionally, individuals can qualify for assistance with water bills if their household is disconnected, in threat of disconnection or if they are more than $250 in arrears on their current bill.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance that for the first time expands how LIHEAP can promote the delivery of efficient air conditioning equipment, community cooling centers, and more. The Biden-Harris Administration released $385 million through LIHEAP to help families with their household energy costs, including summer cooling—part of a record $8 billion that the Administration has provided, boosted by the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
CITY ANNOUNCES GREEN BUILDINGS COMING TO BRONZEVILLE
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, along with Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton, State Senator Mattie Hunter and 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell, joined developers The Habitat Company and P3 Markets to commemorate the topping-off of the Phase 1 residential building at 43 Green, the first equitable transit-oriented development (ETOD) on the city’s South Side.
Centered around the CTA’s 43rd Street Green Line station in historic Bronzeville, the $100 million mixed-income, mixed-use project, which is being developed in three phases will bring approximately 300 new apartments to the neighborhood upon completion.
Located on a long-vacant, city-owned lot on the northeast corner of East 43rd Street and Calumet Avenue, just north of Hadiya Pendleton Park, the Phase 1 building is the largest of 43 Green’s three buildings. The 10-story development will house 99 residential units in a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom floor plans, as well as 5,500-square-feet of retail space and off-street parking. Half of the apartments will be reserved for households earning up to 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), with the remainder leased at market rate.
“The City is focused on expanding equitable, transit-oriented development throughout our city to ensure affordable housing options and transportation access is available to our residents,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “I’m thrilled to see 43 Green become our first ETOD development that will transform and uplift the surrounding community and the Bronzeville neighborhood. I’m grateful to the developers and our partners for both their advocacy of the Connected Communities Ordinance and for this investment in Bronzeville.”
Chicago-based Habitat, a leading U.S. multifamily developer and property manager is spearheading the project in partnership with P3 Markets, a real estate development firm based in Bronzeville dedicated to public-private partnerships.
PRESIDENT BIDEN ISSUES CLIMATE ORDER
President Joe Biden said recently that climate change is a clear and present danger to the United States. On July 20, he announced a new set of executive actions to turn a crisis into an opportunity, by creating good-paying jobs in clean energy and lowering costs for families.
The measures included $2.3 billion in funding for the”Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities” program designed to protect communities from extreme heat and dangerous climate impacts.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which manages the program, noted that the funding will help communities increase resilience to heat waves, drought, wildfires, flood, hurricanes, and other hazards by preparing before disaster strikes.
ADVOCATES PUSH FOR $100 MILLION WATER INCREASE
Illinois’ biggest private water company is pushing for an exorbitant profit rate for its shareholders, and its rate-hike request should be reduced by about 20 percent, the nonprofit consumer advocate Citizens Utility Board (CUB) said this week, citing expert testimony.
“Many customers are paying their highest gas and electric bills ever, so the last thing they need is to get hit with a punishing water increase that gives Illinois American an extravagant profit rate,” said CUB Executive Director David Kolata. “We’ll work with fellow consumer advocates and do everything we can to cut this excessive, unnecessary rate hike as much as possible.”
In February, Illinois American Water filed for an $87.4 million increase in rates before the Illinois Commerce Commission. Now, new testimony filed by Illinois American has updated certain forecasted costs, and the rate hike has increased to about $100 million. Under the original rate-hike request, the typical residential water customer would see a bill increase of $6 to $14 per month and the typical wastewater customer $7 to $17 per month. Now that the rate-hike request is higher, the impact could be even more severe.
*Mayor Lori Lightfoot seeks feedback on a citywide plan for growth and development. “We Will Chicago” is a proposed 10-year centered on eight distinct areas of focus: Arts and Culture; Civic and Community Engagement; Economic Development; Environment; Climate and Energy; Housing and Neighborhoods; Lifelong Learning; Public Health and Safety; and Transportation and Infrastructure.
As a 10-year framework to enhance citywide equity and resiliency, the draft “We Will Chicago” plan includes approximately 40 goals and 150 objectives to improve Chicagoans’ lives, especially individuals impacted by inequities in health, economic stability, neighborhood livability, and other systemic issues.
The Environment, Climate & Energy pillar aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase Chicago’s resilience and preparedness for climate change and improve green spaces for the benefit of people and nature.
MINORITY ORGAN DONATIONS NEEDED
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is hosting a virtual National Minority Donor Awareness Month to promote organ/tissue donation for multicultural communities at www.LifeGoesOn.com during August.
Nationally, people of color comprise 59 percent of the waiting list for organ transplants; however, this year they accounted for only 34 percent of those who donated organs, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.
According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network in Illinois:
- 1,484 African Americans are on the waiting list, but in 2021 only 139 African Americans became donors.
- 880 Hispanic Americans are on the waiting list, but last year only 90 Hispanic Americans became donors.
- 239 Asian Americans are on the waiting list, but only 9 Asian Americans became organ donors in 2021.
People of color are disproportionately affected by illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes, which can lead to the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant, increasing the number of patients on the organ transplant waiting list, according to United Network for Organ Sharing.
–Compiled by Stephanie Gadlin
This report is supported in part by the Inland Press Foundation.