PEORIA, IL – Following a multi-million dollar settlement with the owner of the E.D. Edwards coal plant, Peoria-area organizations met today at Mt. Zion Baptist Church to celebrate the grants being awarded as part of the settlement process. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit and three community partner organizations who advised during the selection process announced a wide range of projects that will help the community transition as the plant prepares to retire.
The settlement of the lawsuit, brought under the Clean Air Act in 2013, provided a total of $8.6 million dollars for workforce development, healthcare-related funding, and clean energy projects. It also provides for the Edwards plant to close by the end of 2022 -- pending approval by regulators.
The settlement sets aside $6.88 million for public health and environmental programs and $1.72 million for job retraining and/or retraining programs to be carried out by nonprofits and municipal agencies in the greater Peoria area. The money will be used to fund local workforce development; electric school and transit buses to replace older diesel buses; energy efficiency upgrades in low-income homes; solar panels on schools, community, and government buildings; and lung-health education and medical interventions.
The following are statements from Peoria-area organizations receiving grants, plaintiffs involved in the settlement, and the community organizations that helped evaluate local grant proposals, NAACP Peoria Branch, Illinois Peoples’ Action, Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance (CIHCA):
“We are excited to be awarded this funding on behalf of the Partnership for a Healthy Community. Our collaborative approach to address lung health in the communities impacted by the Edwards Power Station will focus on improving health outcomes related to asthma, lung cancer, and COPD. The Edwards Settlement goal of advancing environmental justice aligns with our community goal of health equity. This funding directly supports our vision of a healthy, thriving community.” - Monica Hendrickson, Administrator Peoria City/County Health Department
“We appreciate the opportunity to be among the Edwards Settlement Grantees. METEC is looking forward to continuing to serve the community in this additional and expanded capacity. We are looking forward to assisting families in areas affected by decades of pollution, to bring reparation, energy-efficient and affordable homes.” - Julie Hudelson Schmidgall, Executive Director, METEC Resource Center
“The Tri-County Urban League is pleased to have the opportunity to assist former Edwards workers and Southside residents to pursue career opportunities to uplift themselves and their families. The Workforce Empowerment Program will offer a comprehensive array of services that lead to industry-recognized certifications and gainful employment.” -Laraine E. Bryson, President, Tri-County Urban League, Inc.
"Beginning next fall, kids at Hollis Consolidated School District will no longer breathe diesel fumes before and after school each day. Students in Pekin, as well as the neighborhoods served by their new bus, will enjoy the fresh air and a quiet ride. This will especially benefit the growing number of students struggling with asthma and respiratory illnesses. We are very thankful for the award and extremely excited to turn diesel school buses into clean green energy assets, serving the communities of Hollis and Pekin for years to come." -Tim Farquer, Superintendent/Curriculum Director, Williamsfield Schools
“On behalf of Art Inc, I would like to thank the plaintiffs and community groups for selecting us as one of the recipients of this grant. With the addition of the solar panels, we will be one step closer to turning a 100-year-old building into a green space. With this system, hundreds of thousands of dollars will be saved and directed toward program funding.” - Jonathon Romain II, Romain Arts and Culture Center, Art Inc
COMMUNITY GROUP QUOTES:
“Justice will always be incomplete as there is no real way to compensate fenceline and environmental justice communities for the decades of deadly and illegal air pollutants pumped out by the Edwards plant. We see the advance notice of 2022 closure and the $8.6 million in reparations allocated to so many worthy community-based projects today as the first steps in a just transition. We encourage Vistra and local governments to join us and make comprehensive transition plans to ensure that no workers are left behind, our local economy is given the necessary time and support to adapt and the new energy economy allows fenceline and environmental justice communities to share in the jobs and the wealth.” -Tracy Fox, Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance (CIHCA)
“The Edwards Coal Plant settlement is a step in the right direction to address the lack of adequate and accessible remedies for low- income, predominantly POC communities who have suffered years of environmental injustices. This has been a great opportunity to begin the process of healing, reparations, and restoration of disadvantaged communities. These projects will advance economic and environmental justice efforts by promoting community-changing work and filling realistic resource gaps. As we witness the positive impact of these projects, let us not forget that coal plants are not the only entities promoting environmental injustices. Communities of concern are receiving the visibility and healing tools they deserve but it does not end here.”- Nia McFarland- Drye, Assistant Secretary, NAACP
“The people who are most affected by the Edwards plant’s pollution and upcoming closure will receive an investment in their community as a result of this settlement. I’m hopeful that as the funded projects start coming to life, they will help serve as an example of what a just transition can look like.” -Selena Kyle, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“People in this area have worked for years to push for a better energy future. The awarded $8.6 million in grants we announce today reflect the power of that work. These benefits are a window into what might be if we look beyond the absence of coal towards an intentional and just transition away from dirty fossil fuels. This kind of framework--that puts community first--should be the norm in Illinois and not the exception. I hope state, and national, leaders are paying attention to how important local transition must be." - Joyce Blumenshine, Heart of Illinois Group Sierra Club
“After many years of air pollution litigation, we are grateful this settlement allowed us to work hand in hand with Peoria-area community leaders to fund projects that will clean the air and help everyone in the region breathe easier. In addition to reducing air pollution from power plants and vehicles, new resources for local health leaders will decrease lung cancer deaths, keep children with asthma in school and out of the hospital, and improve quality of life for those living with COPD and their families.” -Brian Urbaszewski, Director of Environmental Health at Respiratory Health Association.
“It is gratifying to see the people of Peoria and the surrounding region finally start to receive what they are due following years of litigation focused on this highly polluting coal plant. These grants will help the Peoria region get the cleaner air, cleaner water and the good jobs it deserves.” -Executive Director Howard Learner of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which represented the Sierra Club and the RHA.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC