Environmental, community advocates launch process to award $8.6 million to Peoria-area projects

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PEORIA, Ill. — The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Respiratory Health Association (RHA), and local community partners released a Request for Proposal (RFP) to award $8.6 million in settlement funds to local projects benefiting communities in the Peoria area.

This comes after last week’s approval of the settlement agreement with Vistra Energy to retire the E.D. Edwards coal plant. The RFP was made public today and non-profit and government entities are invited to submit project proposals before Jan. 13, 2020. 

“For over a decade we’ve worked alongside other local partners to advocate for people whose health and livelihoods have been impacted by dangerous coal pollution. We’re excited for the opportunity to put resources towards helping those same communities move forward,” said Joyce Blumenshine, Peoria resident and member of Sierra Club’s Heart of Illinois local group. “Securing a responsible sunset date with adequate planning time for the Edwards plant is only part of this effort and these funds provide a critical opportunity to support Peoria’s energy transition with new economic investments.” 

Under the settlement, the Sierra Club, NRDC, and RHA are responsible for selecting local projects to receive settlement funds. Those groups will be working with the NAACP Peoria Branch, Illinois Peoples’ Action, Central Illinois Healthy Community  Alliance (CIHCA), and Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) to evaluate and select project proposals.

“In addition to the agreement phasing out one of central Illinois’ largest sources of dangerous air pollution, these projects offer additional opportunities to improve the health of local residents, especially those most vulnerable to air pollution,” said Brian Urbazsewski of Respiratory Health Association. “We look forward to hearing from local stakeholders and residents over the coming weeks on ways we can invest these funds to further improve people’s health and create new economic opportunity.”

The agreement allocates two categories of funds to support workforce development as well as public health and environmental projects that benefit Peoria-area communities. The first category of funding includes $1.72 million for economic transition projects focused on job training or re-training available to both Edwards employees and Peoria-area residents.

The second allocates $6.88 million for public health and environmental projects within four project areas: electric bus replacement and infrastructure, residential energy efficiency improvements for economically disadvantaged families, solar development for schools or affordable housing buildings, and programs to improve lung health in the Peoria region.   

“The community will be involved in every step of the transformation that this settlement will bring their local economy and environment,” said J.C. Kibbey, Illinois clean energy advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The vision for a just transition away from coal is coming directly from this community. Illinois should enact policies that allow all communities that are dependent on fossil fuels for their economy to have a similar opportunity for a just transition.”

Eligible recipients to receive project funds are non-profit or government entities.

The settlement agreement resolves the Clean Air Act lawsuit brought by environmental organizations in 2013 and requires Vistra Energy to retire the Edwards coal plant no later than 2022, contribute $8.6 million to fund local projects, and make additional payments into that fund to the extent Edwards exceeds stipulated opacity limits through 2022. 

Public informational sessions on the RFP process will be held on Dec. 3 in the Main Branch Library auditorium at 103 NE Monroe St in Peoria from 4-5 p.m. and again from 6-7 p.m.

The full Request for Proposals can be found at EdwardsCleanAirSettlement.org

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