(Photo: Kelly Nichols, far right, with Dr. Erica Holloman and friends)
Some family stuff has called me away to Oklahoma (what better place to visit in the middle of August?), where I will be hanging out this weekend, waiting for a 3.0 or better earthquake caused by fracking. Meanwhile, I’m handing the steering wheel of the cargo plane we call The Mike Nowak Show to the intrepid Peggy Malecki, who is bringing in her own sidekicks–not to mention excellent guests–for the weekend.
On Saturday, as you’ll read below, Kelly Nichols from Moms Clean Air Force will be at her side. One thing you can say about Kelly is that her personal energy could probably power a small city. That’s what we in the business call “good radio.” For Sunday’s show, Peggy has reached out to our friend and mega-horticulturist Lisa Hilgenberg from the Chicago Botanic Garden, who will assist her for the two hour version of the program.
Listen in! You’re going to enjoy it!
Clearing the air in Chicago and across the country
We first met Kelly Nichols, the Illinois Field Organizer for the national non-profit, Moms Clean Air Force last year at a pre-election town hall meeting hosted by the Illinois Environmental Council. She joined us on the show shortly after to talk about the connection between clean energy and clean air, as well as the health of our communities. Since the elections, protecting our environment from the new administration, potential budget and EPA cuts and mega corporate polluters have taken top priority for Kelly and Moms Clean Air Force. We’re pleased to welcome her back to the studio this morning as both our guest and Peggy’s Saturday’s co-host, when they’ll review some of the issues related to climate and clean air affecting the Chicago area as well as some of the bigger picture of what’s happening at a national level.
Moms Clean Air Force is a national free membership-based organization that makes “fighting for our kids health” a top priority. They currently have more than one million supporters, which they say includes moms, dads, grandparents, aunts uncles and concerned citizens across the country who work with the group’s organizers to contact legislators regarding climate change, pollution and air quality. Community education and policy advocacy are other roles the organization takes, with organizers like Kelly actively working in 17 states and Washington DC.
Kelly says that here in Illinois, she’s focused on a variety of issues affecting our state’s air quality, including emissions from natural gas and crude oil production and transportation, coal ash and related toxic dust, methane emissions, clean energy jobs and asthma — a pretty full agenda.
One ongoing issue affecting areas of the Southeast side of Chicago that Kelly’s been involved with is toxic manganese dust pollution from petcoke facilities like the S.H. Bell Co. storage terminal that are affecting lower income communities. Manganese is a heavy metal that can cause brain damage with ongoing exposure via air particulates. And while the issue has been a problem for many years and community groups are actively engaged, the news broke this past week that the EPA had cited S.H.Bell with violations of the federal Clean Air Act after some disturbing findings. According to an August 10 article in the Chicago Tribune,
Air quality monitors posted around the S.H. Bell Co. storage terminal recorded violations of federal health standards during nearly 40 percent of the days when samples were collected between March and June … Average concentrations of the heavy metal exceeded the legal limit of 0.3 micrograms per cubic meter of air during the period and spiked up to four times higher, prompting the EPA to cite S.H. Bell with violations of the federal Clean Air Act. The alarming findings come three years after investigators stumbled across S.H. Bell while taking a closer look at two nearby sites that stored dusty piles of petroleum coke along the Calumet River.
Kelly will bring us up to speed on what’s happened in response this past week in Southeast side communities and by the Chicago Department of Public Health, and you can be sure it’s an issue we’ll continue to follow on the show. And while it may seem like it’s pretty much all bad news these days when talking about the environment, Kelly assures us that some positive things are also happening to improve air quality, such as last week’s about face by EPA administrator Scott Pruitt when the EPA decided it would indeed enact ozone regulations from the Obama administration on “smog-forming pollutants from smokestacks and tailpipes, a move that environmental groups hailed as a victory.” Of course, it did take a lawsuit filing by 16 state attorneys general to get the policy change.
Meteorologist Rick DiMaio is back this week, and he joins Peggy and Kelly to talk about the ongoing wildfires and record temperatures in our western states, hurricane season and what’s on tap for next week’s weather.