Letter Delivered by Community Members Who Live Near NRG’s Waukegan Coal Plant at NRG’s Annual Shareholders Meeting
A letter signed by Lake County elected officials calling for a long-term plan and transition strategy for the coal plant in Waukegan, Ill. was delivered today to NRG Energy’s new CEO Mauricio Gutierrez at the company’s annual shareholders meeting in Philadelphia by a group of citizens who traveled from Waukegan. Click here to view the full letter and list of Lake County public officials who signed the letter to NRG’s CEO.
This was the second year in a row that Waukegan residents traveled to NRG’s annual shareholders meeting, and this is the second letter that Lake County public officials sent to NRG to ask for the company to collaborate on a long-term transition plan for its Waukegan coal-fired power plant. Community members requested that Mauricio Gutierrez visit Waukegan in the coming months and begin discussions with community stakeholders, a request he agreed to though it was unanswered by the previous CEO David Crane.
Since Lake County public officials sent their first letter to NRG in 2014, the company has taken steps to phase out coal at its Joliet and Will County coal-fired power plants in the Chicago area but without transition plans for those communities and new clean energy investments. Despite a shift away from coal elsewhere, NRG currently burns coal at the Waukegan coal-fired power plant from boilers that are more than 50-years-old.
“As we’re seeing around the country and here in Illinois, aging power plants are not going to be around forever and it’s critical that communities proactively plan for the future,” said Lake County Board Member Mary Ross Cunningham. “We hope to work collaboratively with NRG Energy on a long-term for the coal plant and identify ways to seize the enormous clean energy potential Waukegan offers which can deliver new tax revenue, create hundreds of local jobs, and position our community as a leader in the clean energy economy.”
Throughout 2015, residents have urged Mayor Wayne Motley and the Waukegan City Council to create a taskforce to establish a responsible transition plan with certainty for NRG’s outdated Waukegan coal plant. The taskforce would collaboratively determine a long-term sunset date for the coal plant, transition needs for impacted workers, redevelopment ideas for the lakefront site and opportunities to bolster clean energy development in Waukegan.
“I’m thrilled that so many elected officials around Lake County are supporting our efforts and joining our call to NRG to work collaboratively with our community to craft a long-term plan for the Waukegan plant,” said David Villalobos, Fourth Ward Alderman on the Waukegan City Council. “We’ve learned from other industries on our lakefront who have abruptly left our community that a proactive planning process is essential so that Waukegan can be well positioned to transition beyond outdated energy sources and unlock the huge economic potential our lakefront has so we can truly be a city of progress.”
A recent poll in Waukegan found that 70 percent of Waukegan voters support a plan that commits to a date within the next several years to retire the plant and creates a committee to come up with a plan to redevelop polluted sites along the lakefront.
“Not only do we and NRG have a moral obligation to protect our environment and lakefront in Waukegan but we also have a moral obligation to make sure communities are not left behind as fossil fuel companies retire aging plants that are at the end of their lifetime,” said Reverend Eileen Shanley-Roberts of Most Blessed Trinity Parish. “We’re here at the shareholder meeting to ask Mr. Gutierrez to demonstrate real, responsible leadership and come to Waukegan to work with us in building a healthy, clean energy future for our community.”