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Coal-generated electricity remains a local health and environmental crisis

Exelon's Byron Generating Station, a nuclear energy plant, in Ogle County, Ill. | Madison Hopkins/Better Government Association via AP

I want to draw your attention to Naperville’s addiction to coal, and the need to report on it in order to bring about change.

The Illinois Municipal Electric Agency (IMEA) is of mounting concern in the community, and it seems clear that it is not getting the coverage it needs from the media or our politicians.

This was validated at Saturday’s Naperville Environmental Town Hall hosted by Rep. Grant Wehrli and Sen. Laura Ellman. There was very little time for questions, and the issue of IMEA’s contractual ties to coal was not addressed. Despite robust community engagement, these events tend to be “greenwashing” events to placate the public.

The specific concerns are:

• 91 percent of Naperville’s electricity comes from coal through our contract with IMEA.

• Coal is a potent contributor to climate change, which is accelerating in its environmental impact.

• Coal is a significant source of air pollution that contributes to respiratory, cardiovascular, and metabolic disease.

• Coal combustion leads to the release of toxic metals into the environment.

In fact, the two main coal plants that supply IMEA with electricity were found to release four times higher the amount of arsenic than is safe and two times higher levels of lead. Both of these are neurotoxins, and arsenic is a carcinogen.

While the coal-generated electricity is used in affluent suburbs like Naperville, these toxic metals are released in poorer communities down south, making this an issue of environmental injustice.

Moreover, this creates an out-of-sight out-of-mind mentality when it comes to identifying where our electricity comes from.

IMEA is contractually obligated to get its electricity from these toxic coal plants for decades to come. In addition, these IMEA contracts place a very low cap on rooftop solar, handicapping citizens’ efforts to take action.

This is not at all sustainable from the standpoints of climate change or human health.

We desperately need journalists to hold our politicians’ feet to the fire on this issue.

More important, we need the public to become aware of how their governmental entities are failing to address what is, in fact, an existential crisis.

Robert M. Sargis, MD, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago Center for Health and Environment, Naperville Environment and Sustainability Task Force

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Lori Lightfoot, make cops your first priority as mayor

Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot has a long and varied to-do list when she takes over as the next mayor of Chicago.

It appears in light of cases such as Jason Van Dyke, and the latest case showing a different story than what was first presented by the police, Lightfoot’s first priority should be to address the Chicago Police Department.

It’s unfortunate so many fine officers who do their jobs every day and put their lives on the line for the people of Chicago have to share the taint brought on the whole department by the few who abuse their authority and the city’s trust.

The answer is probably not an easy or obvious one, but hopefully one that can be found relatively quickly and will restore the respect most of Chicago’s cops deserve.

Dan Pupo, Orland Park

Notre Dame Cathedral will rise again

The partial destruction of the grand Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris greatly saddened the world, not only because of its glorious heritage and beauty, but because such buildings are testaments to both human ingenuity and man’s belief in a supreme being.

The cathedral fire occurred during Holy Week, a very precious week in Christendom since it leads to Easter, the day that celebrates the rising of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Like Jesus, the magnificent cathedral was mortally wounded.

On Jesus’ way to calvary, people knelt and wept and prayed. As the historic church burned, people knelt and wept and prayed.

According to dogma, Jesus rose from the dead after three days in the tomb. While it will take years, Notre Dame Cathedral will also rise from the ashes, and her presence in the world will continue to inspire generations to come.

Sister Kathleen Melia, Niles