Fresh, July 25, 2023: Chicago Mayor Outlines ‘Green New Deal’ with Environmental Justice Focus

July 25, 2023

Fresh is a biweekly newsletter from Circle of Blue that unpacks the biggest international, state, and local policy news stories facing the Great Lakes region today. Sign up for Fresh: A Great Lakes Policy Briefing, straight to your inbox, every other Tuesday.

— Christian Thorsberg, Interim Fresh Editor

This Week’s Watersheds

  • Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson’s transition team includes an environmental justice subcommittee, whose recommendations focus on racial equity and curbing pollution.
  • Cheboygan, Michigan, announced plans to replace half-century old wastewater technology with a new multimillion-dollar treatment plant.
  • Plans for development and lakefront accessibility in downtown Cleveland will begin with a town hall meeting led by the mayor.
  • A new agricultural export facility opened in Port Milwaukee, Wisconsin, connecting growers to overseas markets via the Mississippi River, Great Lakes, and St. Lawrence Seaway.

The City Council in St. Paul, Minnesota, voted to implement water restrictions as the state reckons with drought.

“Everyone is saying the same thing: They’re just one shower away from being out of a problem, and two or three hot sunny days away from a big problem. So we really are hanging kind of right on the edge right now.” — Richard Syverson, a farmer in Clontarf, Minnesota.

Extended periods of dry weather have resulted in lower water levels on lakes and rivers and hampered crop production throughout the state, Minnesota Public Radio reports. Forecasted rain is expected to alleviate pressure, but “a continued dry pattern could quickly make things worse for farmers and gardeners.”

This summer brought the Twin Cities’ second-driest June since 1871 and placed two-thirds of the state in drought conditions, according to NOAA. The state’s Department of Natural Resources placed Minnesota as a whole under “drought watch.”

As a result, last Wednesday the St. Paul City council voted unanimously to pass an emergency ordinance restricting residential water use for things like lawn watering.

Fresh from the Great Lakes News Collaborative

  • Federal appeals court takes up question of which court should hear Line 5 dispute — Michigan Radio
  • Unlikely bond between luxury cruise line, Great Lakes climate scientists — Bridge Michigan
  •  TED Countdown: Musician Tunde Olaniran from Flint, Michigan, on the role of art in the climate crisis — Great Lakes Now

The Great Lakes News Collaborative includes Bridge Michigan; Circle of Blue; Great Lakes Now at Detroit Public Television; and Michigan Radio, Michigan’s NPR News Leader. We work together to produce news and information about the impact of climate change, pollution, and aging infrastructure on the Great Lakes and drinking water. This independent journalism is supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Find all the work here.

A ‘Green New Deal’ for Chicago’s New Mayor

New Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson’s transition committee features 11 subcommittees, including one 25-person group devoted to environmental justice, InsideClimate News reports. A “Green New Deal for Chicago” framework is the group’s centerpiece, focusing on equitable climate action, particularly on the city’s West and South sides, where pollution and industrial zoning has led to public health emergencies.

Recommendations for the mayor include stricter permitting and land-use policies, better enforcement of air pollution rules, accelerating the removal of lead service lines, and electrifying buildings.

“The longer-term goal of ensuring effective environmental justice oversight and responsiveness will take years to be done in a way that really honors what that means and dismantles some policies within the city that have perpetrated harms,” said Colleen Smith, a subcommittee co-chair.

In the News

Agricultural Maritime Export Facility: The new $40 million facility at Port Milwaukee is expected to generate $63 million per year and provide Wisconsin’s growers with greater access to export markets, Wisconsin Public Radio and Brownfield report. Bulk agricultural exports, largely grains, will be moved via ships and barges on the St. Lawrence Seaway, Illinois River, and Mississippi River. The port’s first international shipment arrived this week in Ireland.

Lake Erie Accessibility: On Thursday, the Great Lakes Science Center will host Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb and members of the public who wish to offer “initial thoughts and sketches” on proposed lakefront development plans, reports. The meeting is an early step in a transformative project to make Lake Erie’s shores more accessible to Clevelanders. “There’s no safe, universally accessible or convenient way to cross the railroad tracks, roads and other physical and social barriers that stand in the way [to Lake Erie],” reads the home page of Cleveland North Coast, which has more details about the plan. “Aside from the physical obstacles, racial and economic injustices exclude many of our residents from the lakefront—even if they live just blocks away.”

Looking Ahead

The Cheboygan Department of Public Works announced a $17.4 million wastewater treatment facility to replace its current system, the technology of which dates back to the 1970s, WPBN reports. The plant relied on chemical processes. The new building will include an oxidation ditch, in which microorganisms help break down materials harmful to human health. The price tag adds to the more than $4 billion spent in Michigan since January 2019 on drinking water, treatment, and stormwater facilities.

Upcoming Events

July 27 – North Coast Master Plan Conversation with Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb — learn more and register

July 27 — Great Lakes Water Quality Board Public Meeting — learn more and register

July 27 — Student Stewardship: Monitoring Freshwater Acidification — learn more and register

Other News

Wisconsin Wells: More than half of nearly 100 private wells tested in Oneida County, Wisconsin, have come back positive for PFAS “forever chemicals,” WXPR reports.

Eastcombe Funding: Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy has allocated $10 million to Eastcombe, an “action city,” for lead pipe replacements, Macomb Daily reports.

1 reply
  1. Informatika says:

    How does the new agricultural export facility in Port Milwaukee, Wisconsin, connect growers to overseas markets, and what waterways are involved in the transportation?

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