Yesterday, Meredith Angwin couldn’t wipe the smile off her face.
A die-hard environmentalist from Vermont, Meredith is legendary among pro-nuclear activists for having fought tenaciously to save the state’s last nuclear plant.
We had never met before but we recognized each other immediately, and hugged.
Meredith would have been justified asking, “Where the hell were you when we needed you?”
Vermont Yankee was closed in 2014 and replaced with fossil fuels, spiking carbon emissions in New England.
But instead Meredith, a grandmother of two, was grinning. “I can’t tell you how happy I am about what you are doing,” she said. “Isn’t this exciting?”
Indeed, it was — and is.
As the first state to value nuclear for its environmental benefits, New York gives Environmental Progress and the pro-nuclear environmental movement the momentum we need to save one-quarter of Illinois’ clean power.
But only if we act quickly.
After the November elections, there will be a very brief “veto session” in the Illinois legislature. If the legislature fails to act, Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants will be closed and replaced with fossil fuels.
We have 100 days. We can win this. Here’s why.
First, facts still matter. When nuclear plants are closed, carbon emissions spike — something policymakers are forced to acknowledge.
As one of New York’s commissioners said before the vote yesterday, “The concept of shutting down nuclear without increasing fossil fuels is not possible.”
Second, with the New York victory, a precedent has been set.
Big anti-nuclear groups including NRDC and Sierra Club decided to compromise rather than get blamed for increasing emissions. They can do the same in Illinois.
Third, lawmakers in Illinois want to be climate leaders, not clean energy losers.
Illinois legislators and moderate environmentalists want to do the right thing. What’s in their way is a stridently anti-nuclear group called ELPC.
For years, ELPC has used its $6 million annual budget to block the construction of nuclear plants and close existing ones.
Now, ELPC is blocking legislation in Springfield that would save nuclear by treating it fairly.
But here's the thing: ELPC’s stalling tactics are wearing thin. After it and other groups worked out compromise legislation, ELPC’s founder abruptly rejected it. The next day, ELPC’s lead negotiator quit.
A few days after that, two of ELPC’s coalition partners indicated to the Chicago Tribune that they wanted to make a deal.
Most damning of all is the fact that ELPC was caught taking money from fossil and other energy companies that would benefit from the closure of nuclear plants — all while passing itself off as an “environmental organization” lobbying in the public interest.
And most recently, ELPC made headlines insisting that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency was incorrect in claiming Illinois nuclear plants would be replaced "mostly by coal."
Enough is enough. ELPC is a bully. And like all bullies, ELPC will back down once people stand up.
We can do it, but we can’t do it without you. Unlike ELPC, EP does not and never will take money from energy companies. That gives EP more credibility with lawmakers than ELPC — but also a lot less money. Please consider a donation and, if you can’t, please consider joining the movement in some other way.
The lessons from the New York victory are clear: don't give up. Stand up for what is right.
New York was just the beginning. And while Illinois is next, EP has a larger plan in the works to save clean power wherever it is threatened.
Together, we can keep Meredith smiling.
P.S. After I wrote this, I discovered Meredith had blogged about our time together in Albany. With typical generosity, she wrote the following:
A victory like this cannot be ascribed to only one person or one organization. Many people and many groups did a huge amount of work to make this happen. That said, I have to give a huge amount of credit to the Environmental Progress organization, Michael Shellenberger and Eric Meyer, along with the Mothers for Nuclear organization, with Sarah Spath and others. There will be much more written about this in future days, but I wanted to get a blog post about it up today.
The truth is that Meredith and tenacious pro-nuclear environmentalists like Rod Adams deserve far more credit than we do. They kept the faith and fought tenaciously against massive odds, as did Jim, Sarah and all of the winners of the James Hansen Courage Award, who we had the good fortune of recognizing in Oswego last night.