The Rock River Times’ 2002 Illinois Gubernatorial Questionnaire

The Rock River Times’ 2002 Illinois Gubernatorial Questionnaire


Editor’s note: The Rock River Times decided to poll our gubernatorial candidates this year on issues that our readers care deeply about: renewable energy, the Rock River and the environment.

We sent the questions below to Libertarian Cal Skinner, Independent Marisellis Brown, Democrat Rod Blagojevich and Republican Jim Ryan.

We also sent a different questionniare to the candidates for Illinois Attorney General. More on that next week.

The only two gubernatorial candidates that answered by our Oct. 14 deadline were Skinner and Blagojevich. Ryan’s people said his would be in next week.

Apparently, Ryan and Brown don’t feel that the Rock River, the environment and renewable energy are important or pressing issues.

Skinner answered our questions in a very roundabout manner. Blagojevich did the best job, in our opinion. Judge for yourself.

Here’s our questions and Skinner’s and Blagojevich’s answers.


1. The President of the Foundation on Economic Trends, Jeremy Rifkin, envisions the creation of a Worldwide Energy Web in which energy, produced by renewable processes and carried by hydrogen, is decentralized. This means that the end user must be allowed to produce their own power, and sell any that is not consumed to the grid, or purchase any needed power from the grid, peer to peer. As Governor, what would you do to promote and support such a vision to make it a reality?

2. The Rock River faces significant pollution and cleanup issues. In this regard, the Rock River is not alone: the Illinois EPA identified 336 pollution-impaired waterways four years ago, but now identifies 414. According the IEPA, the Rock has unsafe levels of PCBs, mercury, and other pollutants. As Governor, would you support legislation to allow the EPA to deny new pollution permits for companies that have previously violated pollution control laws?

3.Would you support legislation to require water polluters to pay a fee for their pollution permits, and encourage the Legislature to direct those fund cleanups of polluted waters like the Rock River?

4. The Rock River also faces significant threats to the natural areas habitat contained in its watershed. Housing developments continue to spread at a rapid rate, and frequently without a long-term natural areas habitat protection plan in place. None of the counties along the Rock River have dedicated natural areas or “open space” acquisition funding; instead, they are entirely dependent on the statewide Open Space Acquisition Fund. Do you intend to continue to fund Open Space acquisition in Illinois, and, if so, how do you intend to allocate those funds?

5.The Rock River watershed, and northern Illinois in general, contain significant renewable energy resources. Ethanol is already a major agricultural industry in the area. However, renewable energy constitutes less than 1% of the electricity supply in the state. Do you support legislation such as a “Renewable Energy Standard” to require power companies to generate a percentage of their power from renewable energy resources?

6. Would you support making mandatory the 5% by 2010 and 15% by 2020 “renewable energy goal” adopted by the Legislature in 2001?

7. The Rock River watershed is in the area of several coal plants that were built before the Clean Air Act and are not required to reduce emissions to the level of new coal plants. Legislation passed in 2001 establishes a process for the next Governor to consider mandatory pollution reductions from these plants. Will you instruct the EPA to seek significant reductions in coal plant emissions?

8. How do you balance economic development and public health concerns on this question?

Cal Skinner’s answers

In 1959 Cal Skinner decided to take one of the first courses in ecology at Knox College in Galesburg, instead of attending Boys State. That was 10 years before the general public learned about the word ecology on Earth Day.

Ten years later, he was a Crystal Lake Jaycee (and McHenry County Treasurer) chairing a county fair booth project entitled, “Pollution Alert.”

The display featured a slide show of pollution in McHenry County, including yellow and blue streams, dead raccoons that had drunk stream water and other examples of pollution the newly formed McHenry County Health Department had discovered. Fair-goers were invited to take postcards on which they could blow the whistle on McHenry County polluters.

When the McHenry County Defenders was formed, Skinner joined. He has been a member for virtually as long as the organization has been in existence.

When he was state representative in the 1970s, an elderly woman coordinated the collection of 5,000 signatures urging Skinner to prevent the Middlefork River in Danville from being turned into a reservoir. Skinner was on the Appropriations Committee at the time and led the House fight to kill the project.

Skinner joined the fight to kill the Fox Valley Tollway, still euphemistically called the Fox Valley Expressway by proponents of rampant growth in McHenry County. Proponents of the project went into hibernation until about 1990. When Skinner ran for state representative in 1992, his opposition to it resulted in the “establishment” Republican primary candidate’s announcing it was again dead in a Barrington candidate’s night the week before the primary election. Skinner won the primary and served eight more years in the Illinois House.

In his 1970s service, the executive director of the Boone County Conservation District asked Skinner to introduce a bill to establish the non-game income tax check-off. Skinner passed the bill over active opposition of the Revenue Department.

Skinner’s Environmental Record— 2

Governor Jim Thompson vetoed the bill, but Rep. Virginia MacDonald passed the same bill the next session, when the governor signed it, along with a number of other income tax check-off bills.When it appeared that oil companies might want to drill in Lake Michigan, Skinner introduced a bill to prohibit such activity.

When Skinner ran an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 1980, Elgin friends installed a fuel system that powered a car on 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent water. The car stalled only once during the campaign. Skinner still believes that if corn growers in the state would establish convenient filling stations in the suburbs, a market for ethanol-powered cars might develop.

During the 1980’s, Skinner often talked to his father, who served on the McHenry County board. Skinner suggested that one potential source of Fox River pollution was septic tanks of riverbank property owners. Skinner’s father convinced the county board to dye test all of the septic tanks.

In 1993, Skinner led the fight to allow home rule municipalities to set notice regulations for herbicide and pesticide application. Unfortunately, he lost the fight. Skinner continued his support of widening existing roads, rather than building new ones. It took eight years, but his idea of dedicated right- and left-turn lanes, plus two westbound through lanes on Route 62 at the intersection of Route 31 was completed before he left office.

100 percent environmental voting record

In the 1997-98 session, Skinner’s voting record was rated number one among state representatives by the Illinois Environmental Council. He had a 100 percent record.

During the 1990s, Skinner voted to stop the Robbins’ incinerator and to give local county governments zoning power over mega-hog farms. He believes pollution of groundwater drinking supplies is a major problem that needs more attention in Illinois.

Skinner’s environmental record – 3

He joined his rural constituents in objecting to Indeck’s petition to build an electric generating facility in a rural area. He also criticized county zoning officials for refusing to inform affected residents of petitions to build cellular telephone towers. Skinner managed to get one moved from the intersection of Routes 22 and 14 to the top of the Fox River Grove water tower.

Make median strips prairies

As governor, Skinner proposes to turn the “golf course-like” median strips and

shoulders of interstate highways, including tollways, into prairies. Skinner argues that such lineal prairies could be tourist attractions with seas of yellow flowers each fall and bluestem grass 15 feet tall. He notes that prairie grass would help with water retention, besides being a scenic attraction. Skinner proposes that prisoners grow and plant the prairie plants where they are within reasonable distance of state prisons.

Skinner is the only candidate to call for turning the tollways into freeways. He points out the reduction of air pollution that removal of the toll booths would bring. (See separate tollway section on the web site for further information.)

While the last two governors have opted to seek state parks northwest of Springfield and near DuQuoin, Skinner promises to seek funding for a 2000-3000-acre park in McHenry County’s southeastern corner in Algonquin Township. It now consists of gravel pits that are mined out or in the process of being mined. He explains that the site could easily be accessible by train and bus from the Cary train station and that recreational activities are limited primarily by one’s imagination. He believes virtually any type of summer or winter water sport would be possible, as would camping, recreational vehicle parks, “not to mention activities that are not welcome in traditional parks,” referring to dirt bikes and other motorized vehicles.

Skinner believes much more attention must be paid to the protection of ground water. He points out that areas in the Chicago metropolitan area that do not already have Lake Michigan water are not likely to obtain it, leaving ground water the only alternative besides rivers.

Skinner’s environmental record – 4

Skinner said he may take a leaf from Iowa’s Libertarian gubernatorial candidate and seriously investigate wind generation of electric power. Clyde Cleveland has come up with an interesting proposal that deserves consideration. In the Rockford area, Skinner opposes the extension of Perryville Road and notes that Rod Blagojevich’s signs have appeared on the property of the land speculator who will benefit most from building this stimulus to sprawl in northern Winnebago County.

Skinner also believes the Illinois Environment Protection Agency should take more interest in the noise and visual pollution aspects of peaker electric generating plants, such as those proposed by Indeck. He notes that Indeck had given Jim Ryan $139,115 through June 30th. In fact, Indeck was Jim Ryan’s fourth-largest contributor.



Distributed generation

I am a strong supporter of renewable energy. In 25 years of Republican mismanagement, Illinois has failed the public by inadequately promoting renewable power generation. If I am elected governor, I will seek to provide a more level playing field for renewable energy to compete with other power sources.

Currently, 34 states have laws requiring “net metering,” which is a billing system for homes and businesses with solar and wind generators to allow them to receive the same price for the power they generate as they must pay for the power they use. In areas without net metering, power companies will often, for example, charge 8 cents per kWh for the power they sell, but pay only 2 cents per kWh for the power that solar and wind generators put back onto the grid.

In Illinois, ComEd is offering net metering on a voluntary experimental basis, and is finding broad customer and public support for the program.

In recent Illinois legislative sessions, net metering has been supported by Rock River area Representatives Doug Scott (D) (now the Mayor of Rockford) and Dave Winters (R), among others. If I am elected governor, and the legislature passes a net metering law that is not harmful to Illinois’ economy, I will sign the bill into law.

Illegal polluters

Denying permits to previous illegal polluters—As governor, I will take an active role in protecting the environment, and will continue to seek new and better ways to improve the quality of life of all Illinois citizens. This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, and it is disturbing in the context of that landmark legislation that the number of pollution-impaired rivers in Illinois is actually increasing. It is not fair to our children to bring them into a world where they can’t drink the water and fish safely in our streams, and I will make cleaning up our lakes, rivers and streams a top priority. When companies are violating our pollution laws, they put the health of all of us at risk. I would support common-sense legislation to allow the EPA to deny new permits in certain circumstances to companies that have previously proven unworthy of the public trust by violating our pollution laws.

Fees for Pollution Permits

As governor, I would fight to ensure that big polluters pay their fair share of cleanup costs of Illinois’ rivers, lakes and streams.  Currently, the state issues approximately 800 “Free” Water Pollution Permits to discharge industrial wastewater, treated sewage, and other forms of pollution into Illinois’ rivers, lakes and streams.  As the state gives away “free” rights to pollute our waters, the Rock River and hundreds of other streams and lakes are on a cleanup waiting list due to a lack of funds. 

While 39 other states charge fees for Water Pollution Permits, Illinois does not.  This costs taxpayers millions to process, enforce and monitor compliance of these water pollution permits—when the cost should go to the polluters instead. 

Illinois already charges fees for air pollution permits based on this understanding, and ought to do the same for water pollution permits. My understanding is that charging a fee for these permits, that includes higher fees for the biggest polluters, could generate as much as $12 million annually to improve water quality, enhance wildlife habitat and fishing, and to continue the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s work to protect our waters from pollution. 

Protecting Open Space

I believe that we need to expand our economic opportunities while simultaneously preserving our natural and scenic resources like the Rock River.  With the right leadership, Illinois can accomplish both goals and even create more opportunities for working families.  If elected governor, I will work to ensure that Illinois continues its investment in the Open Lands Trust at current funding levels; funding for the trust is due to expire this year.  Many areas in Illinois, like the Rock River watershed, are dependent on those funds for ongoing preservation areas, and it is unacceptable to me that such areas should be lost.

In addition, I will explore the creation a statewide Local Legacy Project to provide a mechanism for local communities to identify resources in need of protection. 

Equally important, I will also work to encourage new industrial development to occur in previously industrial areas such as those in Rockford; locating industrial development in “brownfields” like this is invaluable not only for the economic well-being of our cities, but also to preserving our rural and natural scenic landscapes.

Renewable Energy Standard

I strongly support safe and clean renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently released a wind resource map for Illinois that shows a potential for 3000 MW of wind energy capacity with existing technology at competitive market prices.  This would constitute roughly 5 percent of Illinois’ annual generation. 

Farmers and other landowners leasing the land to wind developers typically receive $3,000 to $5,000 per turbine per year, with surrounding acreage available for traditional agricultural uses.  Wind energy has great potential, therefore, as a new cash crop for farmers.  There is simply no reason why we shouldn’t capture this potential and the potential of other renewable energy resources in the state.   

As Governor of Texas, George W. Bush signed into law a Renewable Portfolio Standard that created a wind energy boom in Texas, with half of all wind energy development in the United States occurring in Texas in 2001.  I strongly support the adoption of a vigorous Renewable Portfolio Standard in Illinois.  I would also implement a Green Power Purchase for state agencies, to ensure that Illinois does all it can to develop this important and secure power source.

Renewable Energy Standard

Cleaning up old coal plants

The Blagojevich Economic Development Plan includes provisions to re-power outmoded power plants within 10 years with advanced

coal technology plants that burn Illinois coal, and to promote the use of mine mouth power generation.  These plants would use new, environmentally friendly technologies such as Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) processing that dramatically improve air quality by two-thirds at each plant. 

The environmental improvements achievable by the new technology are dramatic:  Advanced coal technology plants are able to reduce sulfur-dioxide emissions—the main ingredient in “acid rain”—by 98 percent.  They also reduce nitrogen oxides—which cause air quality problems and even lung disease—by 90 percent, and reduce soot below detectable levels.  This clean coal-burning technology can also increase the efficiency at which coal is burned, emitting 20 percent less carbon dioxide—the main “greenhouse gas”—than regular coal plants. 

Finally, many of the by-products of advanced coal processes like IGCC are often saleable on the industrial market, turning what would be waste into useful products.The EPA process created by the 2001 legislation to reduce pollutants from old coal plants integrates seamlessly with my economic development plan, providing both carrot and stick to move toward cleaner air and sustainable economic development.

Balancing economic development

and public health concerns

There is no real economic security, opportunity, or quality of life for citizens when society does not place a high priority on protecting the environment. I believe that a crucial task for the next governor will be to clearly demonstrate that economic development and environmental protection are not exclusive goals but rather can be achieved hand in hand.

Specifically relating to energy production, I believe that no conflict exists between energy security and a clean environment. A forward-looking energy policy would help Illinois once again be able to use its own natural resources for energy generation while improving air quality and creating jobs at the same time.

According to the Illinois Mining Institute at Southern Illinois University, the Blagojevich Economic Development Plan would bring 20,000 new mining, construction and other related jobs to the region. In addition to cleaner coal technologies, renewable energy technologies like wind offer tremendous rural economic development potential.

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