Tag Archives: Illinois

Concerns raised over massive hog facility

Residents in rural western Illinois are trying to stop a leading U.S. pork producer’s plan for a massive hog facility.

Bernadotte Township residents sent letters to state agriculture officials alleging errors and omissions in Professional Swine Management’s plan for its 20,000-hog confinement, Runway Ridge Farms LLC., the Chicago Tribune reported.

The concerns are similar to those expressed by Wisconsinites concerned with factory farm operations in their state — or across state borders.

The residents said it didn’t account for nearby structures, wells and creeks.

Fulton County commissioners passed a resolution Dec. 13 urging the state to halt action on all new large confinements in the county until the Illinois law governing such operations is reformed.

The resolution is only symbolic because state law doesn’t give local communities much, if any, power over the issue.

However, the resolution did catch the attention of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Her spokesman said the agencies involved in these issues should carefully consider residents’ concern.

“We think it is extremely important that residents are raising concerns about these operations,” said the spokesman to the newspaper.

Professional Swine is considering how or whether to respond to the opposition coming out of Bernadotte Township, and has put on hold construction of Runway Ridge.

Company officials declined to give details on their Fulton County plans or any aspects of their business.

“I think at this point we don’t have any comment on any of these items,” said Julie Totten, chief financial officer.

Professional Swine has installed 27 hog operations with a total of more than 120,000 sows in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, despite periodic opposition from local residents and environmental and animal welfare groups.

Fulton County has at least five of the facilities.

On the Web

Neighbors Opposing a Polluted Environment.

Federal court weighs key decision on LGBT-workplace bias

A rare full-court session of a U.S. appeals court in Chicago heard arguments this week on whether protections under a 1964 Civil Rights Act should be expanded to cover workplace discrimination against LGBT employees, as hopes dim among some gay rights activists that the question will be resolved in their favor following Republican election victories.

Several of the 11 judges at the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals signaled they are ready to enter what would be a historic ruling broadening the scope the 52-year-old landmark law, with the court directing the toughest questions during the hourlong hearing at a lawyer who argued only Congress could extend the protections.

Judge Richard Posner repeatedly interrupted the lawyer representing an Indiana community college that was sued by a lesbian for alleged discrimination and at one point asked: “Who will be hurt if gays and lesbians have a little more job protection?” When attorney John Maley said he couldn’t think of anyone who would be harmed, Posner shot back, “So, what’s the big deal?”

Even if the 7th Circuit becomes the first U.S. appellate court to rule that the law covers sexual-orientation bias, legal experts say the issue is likely to land before the Supreme Court. Chances of a majority of justices agreeing that workplace protections should include LGBT workers will be slimmer if President-elect Donald Trump fills a high court vacancy with a social conservative.

A GOP-majority House and Senate also makes it unlikely the next Congress will amend the statute, said Chicago-based labor lawyer Barry Hartstein.

“You can’t count on Congress or the courts,” said Hartstein, who wants the act to cover LGBT workers.

President Barack Obama’s administration has taken the position that the law already prohibits discrimination of LGBT workers. It has criticized courts for a reluctance to reach the same conclusion.

The 7th Circuit decided in October to rehear the case of teacher Kimberly Hively, who claimed Ivy Tech Community College didn’t hire her full time because she is a lesbian. The full court vacated the July finding by three of its own judges that the civil rights law doesn’t cover sexual-orientation bias. A new ruling is expected within several weeks.

The hearing focused on the meaning of the word ‘sex’ in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the provision that bans workplace bias based on race, religion, national origin or sex. Multiple court rulings back Maley’s contention that Congress meant for the word to refer only to whether a worker was male or female. Given that, he said it would be wrong to stretch the meaning of ‘sex’ in the statute to also include sexual orientation.

The school’s lawyer conceded the law is imprecise, but added: “That makes it an issue for Congress.”

Several judges challenged him for arguing it’s not a federal court’s place to mandate that a law do something lawmakers didn’t originally intend for it to do.

“You seem to think the meaning of the statute was frozen on the day it passed,” Posner said to Maley. “That, of course, is false.” And the judge added: “Are we bound by what people thought in 1964?”

He and other judges pointed to bans on interracial marriage as examples of laws that changed or were expanded by courts as societal norms changed.

In his presentation, the teacher’s lawyer pointed to what he described as the absurdity of one 1980s Supreme Court finding that if workers are discriminated against because they don’t behave around the office by norms of how men or women should behave, then that does violate the Civil Rights Law. But if a man or woman is discriminated against at work for being gay that was found not to violate the Civil Rights Act.

“You can’t discriminate against a woman because she rides a Harley, had Bears tickets or has tattoos,” attorney Gregory Nevins said. “But you can if she’s lesbian.”


Illinois law requires stylists to be trained in domestic violence support

Illinois has a new law requiring stylists in the state to be trained in domestic violence support and response.

The law will take effect Jan. 1.

Pin-Up Hair Studio stylist Jamie Feramisco in Quincy, Illinois, said hairdressers sometimes learn about incidents of domestic violence through chatting with clients.

She said she often hears accounts of domestic violence in her salon and that she tries to support women facing such circumstances.

The mandate was passed as an amendment to the Barber, Cosmetology, Hair Braiding and Nail Technology Act of 1985.

The legislation aligns the Professional Beauty Association’s Cut It Out program, which pushes similar efforts.

“The salon is a safe place to go. People tell their stylists things they don’t even tell their family or friends,” PBA Director of Charitable Programs Rachel Molepske said. “We have gotten testimonials from people that said this program saved them.”

Feramisco said she plans to host a training session at the salon once the state has established a curriculum.

“The whole idea is to help hairdressers deal with disclosures. There is a right way and a wrong way to talk to someone. It can make or break the way a person handles their assault,” Quanada Prevention Educator JJ Magliocco said. “We are teaching them that they can make a difference. They don’t have to keep their mouth shut.”

The legislation is HB4264.

Officials: Pipelines linking Lake Michigan and Huron too weak

Michigan officials say Enbridge Energy Partners had violated a legal requirement by having too much unsupported space along its twin oil and liquified natural gas pipelines running beneath the environmentally sensitive waterway that links Lakes Michigan and Huron.

Enbridge found similar problems two years ago with the pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac and said it had taken steps to ensure they would not happen again, but recent findings “have refuted that prediction,” Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and other officials said in a letter to the Canadian company.

The pipes are a small section of Enbridge’s 645-mile-long Line 5, through which 23 million gallons of crude oil and liquid natural gas move daily between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario.

Environmental groups have pushed to shut down the underwater pipes, saying a rupture could do catastrophic damage to the Great Lakes.

The company insists the pipes have never leaked and are closely monitored.

“The violation notice issued today by state leaders should serve as a wake-up call,” said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “Due to the risk the Line 5 pipeline poses to our Great Lakes, we must stop oil from flowing along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac as quickly as is feasible.”

Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy said the pipes were stable and the need for more supports did not signal a safety threat.

“Our inspection process did what it’s designed to do,” he said.

Some sections of the underwater pipes rest directly on the lake bottom, while others are supported by steel anchors held in place by screws drilled into the lakebed. An easement granted by the state when the lines were laid in 1953 requires that no section of the pipelines longer than 75 feet be without support from either the ground or an anchor.

But during a June inspection with a remote underwater vehicle, Enbridge discovered four locations where unsupported sections exceeded the limit by a foot or two, Duffy said.

“Enbridge is legally responsible not only for promptly correcting this violation of the easement, but taking effective measures for preventing any more recurrences of this problem,” said the letter signed by Schuette; Department of Environmental Quality Director C. Heidi Grether; and Keith Creagh, director of the Department of Natural Resources.

The spacing problems were caused by sediment erosion that created open areas beneath the pipes, Duffy said. Enbridge has applied for a DEQ permit to install anchors in the four spots that were detected and 15 others that could exceed the 75-foot limit as future erosion occurs, he said.

“The Great Lakes is a dynamic environment and we anticipated that at times there can be changes to the lake bottom,” Duffy said.

But the state officials said the company had found other spacing issues during its last underwater inspection in 2014. At that time, Enbridge installed 40 more anchors and said it had developed a “predictive maintenance model” that would ensure the 75-foot limit would not be exceeded again.

The officials instructed Enbridge to explain why its model had failed and come up with a better plan within two weeks. One possible improvement would be more frequent inspections and support installations, they said.

Enbridge agreed to stepped-up inspections of the Straits of Mackinac pipelines last month under a $176 million settlement with the federal government from a 2010 rupture of another pipeline that polluted the Kalamazoo River in southwestern Michigan, the costliest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

Feds: Enbridge Energy to pay $177M more after Midwest oil spills

Enbridge Energy’s bill continues to grow for the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history.

The U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency announced earlier in July a proposed settlement with Enbridge and related companies.

Enbridge must spend at least $110 million on a series of measures to prevent spills and improve operations in the Great Lakes region.

The company also must pay civil penalties — $62 million for Clean Water Act violations, including $61 million for discharging at least 20,082 barrels of oil in Marshall, Michigan, and $1 million for discharging at least 6,427 barrels of oil in Romeoville, Illinois.

The settlement includes an “extensive set of specific requirements to prevent spills and enhance leak detection capabilities” throughout Enbridge’s Lakehead pipeline system — a network of 14 pipelines spanning nearly 2,000 miles across seven states, including Wisconsin. The system moves about 1.7 million barrels of oil each day.

Enbridge also must improve its spill preparedness and emergency response programs. as well as replace close to 300 miles of one of its pipelines.

“This settlement will make the delivery of our nation’s energy resources safer and more environmentally responsible,” assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden said in a news release. “It requires Enbridge to take robust measures to improve the maintenance and monitoring of its Lakehead pipeline system, protecting lakes, rivers, land and communities across the upper Midwest, as well as pay a significant penalty.”

Already Enbridge has reimbursed the federal government for $57.8 million for cleanup costs from the Marshall spill and $650,000 for cleanup costs from the Romeoville spill.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles Jr., assigned to the Western District in Michigan, said his office was pleased with the deal.

“Prevention of future pipeline leaks and immediate detection and repair of problem areas are critical when protecting health and the environment,” he said.

The Marshall spill was the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history. Enbridge discharged at least a million gallons of oil into Talmadge Creek near Marshall.

After 22 months of cleanup work, the Kalamazoo River reopened for recreational activities but environmental groups continue to question whether the cleanup was complete.


Spending $110 million

Under the proposed settlement, Enbridge must:

  • Implement an enhanced pipeline inspection and spill prevention program.
  • Implement enhanced measures to improve leak detection and control room operations.
  • Commit to additional leak detection and spill prevention requirements for a portion of Enbridge’s Line 5 that crosses the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan.
  • Create and maintain an integrated database for the Lakehead Pipeline System.
  • Enhance its emergency spill response preparedness programs by conducting four emergency spill response exercises to test and practice Enbridge’s response to a major inland oil spill.
  • Improve training and coordination with state and local emergency responders.
  • Hire an independent third-party to assist with review of implementation of the requirements in the settlement agreement.


The case against Enbridge

The government’s complaint alleges Enbridge owned or operated a 30-inch pipeline, known as Line 6B, that ruptured near Marshall on July 25, 2010.

The Line 6B rupture triggered numerous alarms in Enbridge’s control room, but Enbridge failed to recognize the ruptured pipeline until at least 17 hours later.

In the meantime, Enbridge restarted Line 6B twice on July 26, 2010, pumping additional oil into the ruptured pipeline and causing additional discharges of oil into the environment.

Ultimately, Line 6B discharged at least 20,082 barrels of crude oil, much of which entered Talmadge Creek and flowed into the Kalamazoo River, which flows to Lake Michigan.

Flooding caused by heavy rains pushed the discharged oil over the river’s banks into its flood plains and accelerated its migration more than 35 miles downstream.

Enbridge later replaced Line 6B, which originates in Griffith, Indian, crosses the lower peninsula of Michigan and ends in Sarnia, Canada, with a larger pipeline, also known as Line 6B.

The rupture and discharges were caused by stress corrosion cracking on the pipeline, control room misinterpretations and other problems and pervasive organization failures at Enbridge.

The government complaint also alleges that on Sept. 9, 2010, another Enbridge pipeline, known as Line 6A, discharged at least 6,427 barrels of oil which Romeoville, Illinois, much of which flowed through a drainage ditch into a retention pond in Romeoville.

Groups using Pokemon Go to register voters

A political group in swing-state Ohio is using the game Pokemon Go for a purpose beyond catching cute Pikachu: registering voters.

NextGen Climate Ohio, a group drawing attention to climate change, says the rollout — coming days before the two political conventions get underway — is just one of the creative ways it’s trying to engage millennial voters.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is to really meet them where they are,” said state director Joanne Pickrell. “This is where they seem to be. It’s a very popular game.”

The Democrat-backed NextGen is dropping “lures,” which draw the cartoon monsters hunted by “Pokemon Go” players, at game locations called Pokestops in parks and on campuses in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo, Pickrell said. Organizers will be on site at the locations to talk to players about the importance of voting and how to get registered.

Planned Ohio locations include the University of Toledo on Friday and, on Saturday, parks in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus and Mirror Lake on the main campus of Ohio State University. The group’s chapters in Iowa, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Illinois are also using a similar tactic to register voters. In New Hampshire, it’s being used to secure commitments to vote in the fall.

Pickrell said outreach to youth voters in Ohio also includes being at music festivals, street fairs and college orientations.

Catching Pokemon Thursday at Columbus’ Goodale Park, one of NextGen’s planned outreach sites, players of the game were positive about the idea.

“Any way to spread the good teachings of knowing when to vote, how to vote, knowing to vote, to register, that your vote matters — any way you can get that, whether it’s through ‘Pokemon Go’ or anything else that’s popular at the time, if it can help the younger generation know what to prepare for it, then I’m all for it,” said Jordan Grubb, 23.

Grubb’s companion at the park, 20-year-old Haley Hamilton, agreed: “Voting’s important. You need to get younger people’s attention, because a lot of younger kids don’t take it seriously.”

Chris Thomas, 29, a doctoral student in education policy, said he loves the social aspect of the game but approaches “lures” with a note of caution.

“Using that to bring people to you is a really cool idea for registering people to vote, but I did find a story about people using it to lure people for purposes of robbing them, so there are pros and cons of that,” he said.

Thomas said bumping into other “Pokemon Go” players while looking down at your phone to play the game has been a pleasant surprise of the game experience. Instead of being stereotypical detached smartphone users, players begin to talk and even work together.

“We’re alone, together,” he said. That’s not unlike voters.

Gun shop raffling AR-15 rifle to benefit Orlando victims

A suburban Chicago gun shop is raffling a semi-automatic weapon to benefit victims of the nightclub shooting in Orlando.

Second Amendment Sports in McHenry, Illinois, is selling tickets for $5 to win an AR-15 rifle similar to the one gunman Omar Mateen used when he opened fire in a gay nightclub June 12, leaving 49 people dead and 53 injured. It was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

“We wanted to do something for the loss of lives and injuries that happened to people in Orlando,” store owner Bert Irslinger Jr. told the Chicago Tribune.

The store isn’t making a political statement, owners said.

“I understand that there are different opinions out there,” said Vic Santi, store marketing director. “We don’t look at this as a gun issue. We look at this as a terrorism issue.”

Store owners plan to announce the winner on July 31, when they open a new gun range and larger showroom.

Kathleen Larimer’s son, 27-year-old John Larimer, a U.S. Navy sailor from Crystal Lake, Illinois, was one of 12 people killed in the 2012 shootings in a Colorado movie theater. Larimer called the raffle an inappropriate publicity ploy.

“Guns are not toys,” Larimer said. “They should be taken seriously. I’m not saying they should be illegal, but raffling off a gun is not taking its killing power seriously.”

Colleen Daley, executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence in Chicago, said the raffle is offensive.

“I’m glad people are trying to raise money,” she said. “I just don’t think it’s the most appropriate way to do that. These guns are weapons of war, meant to kill large numbers of people in a short time, which is what happened in Orlando. I find it very distasteful and offensive.”

The gun shop said proceeds plus its own donation of $2,000 will go to the OneOrlando Fund run by the nonprofit group Strengthen Orlando Inc.


Miniature horses recovering after farm rescue

Jenna Dickson expected to rescue only the miniature horses in the worst conditions when she headed to a farm in central Illinois.

No more than six would be coming back to the Hooved Animal Humane Society in Woodstock, Illinois, she thought. But then she saw all 14 miniature horses.

“They kind of greet you at the fence, so you walk up and it’s like, ‘What cute little ponies. This will be great,’ “ said Dickson, the organization’s adoption coordinator. “And then you look at their feet. Some of them, their feet were so long and curling up (that) when they walked, their feet were flapping.

“We can’t just leave some of them here to get worse,” she said.

The first rescue came in early December after someone called the Hooved Animal Humane Society to alert them to the animals’ deteriorating conditions. One of the owners had died, and the widower was in poor health and couldn’t provide the animals the proper care, said Tracy McGonigle, executive director and Illinois Department of Agriculture-certified investigator.

The animals’ hooves were overgrown to the point where it was likely painful and could have caused permanent damage to their skeletons leaving them with constant discomfort.

Among the worst of the pack was Pony Boy, a 10-year-old stallion whose hooves likely had not been cut for about five years. In comparison, Dickson said her organization typically trims hooves every six to eight weeks.

A farrier and veterinarian visited the animals after they arrived – eight at first, and six a week later – and it doesn’t appear they sustained any irreversible injuries. It cost the nonprofit, which is responsible for about 140 animals in total, more than $4,000 for the triage.

The ponies will need additional trims, as well as dental care, but they’re in good shape otherwise, Dickson said. Most will be ready for adoption in about two months.

Some will use that time to get comfortable with people. Dickson said the horses in the second lot were hard to catch and seemed as if they had never had a halter put on before.

“Even the ones who are hard to handle, you can tell they’re curious. They want to and then they just get nervous,” Dickson said. “So I think as long as we’re gentle and keep working with them, they’ll come around really nice.”

In all, however, they’ve made strides since they first arrived, a couple even allowing a volunteer groomer to braid their hair. In the barn where they’re all being kept, they “talk” to each other, the horses named after “The Outsiders” characters neighing to those with “Harry Potter”-themed monikers.

Their calls reach across the barn to Pony Boy, who’s being kept separate until he’s gelded.

Playing and talking aside, they’re favorite pastime is eating hay.

“It’s rewarding for everyone,” McGonigle said, looking at the mini-horses muzzles peeking out of a gate. “It’s nice. It’s seeing them act like horses again, like normal animals.”

Published through the AP member exchange. 

Medical marijuana edibles debut in Illinois

Edible medical marijuana made its Illinois debut Saturday, ending a wait for patients who prefer eating to inhaling. To some, cannabis-infused foods seem milder than smoke or vapor, but the products carry their own risks.

It takes longer to feel the effects when marijuana is eaten, so it’s easy to eat too much with unpleasant — or even dangerous — results.

“As exciting as bringing edibles to market is, we want to make sure that every patient takes small portions, and wait at least an hour before taking more, until you understand and get comfortable with consuming medical cannabis in its edible forms,” said Ross Morreale, owner of Ataraxia, an Illinois company with marijuana chocolates hitting the market.

Under the state’s pilot program, edible products must be manufactured by licensed cultivation centers, the same businesses growing cannabis in locked indoor facilities. Ataraxia shipped marijuana chocolates to two dispensaries, which will start selling them Saturday, Morreale said.

The square-inch chocolates contain 10 milligrams of THC, marijuana’s leading active ingredient, and come in three flavors: milk chocolate, dark chocolate and white chocolate-raspberry. They’ll be priced at $7 to $9 per square.

“We taste it blank so it has a good flavor foundation,” Ataraxia chef Joseph Pierro said. “We have not tasted it with the (cannabis) oil, but we’re confident flavor will be there strong and true.”

Regulated pot sales began Nov. 9 in Illinois, but companies didn’t have edibles ready until now. Other cultivation centers reached by The Associated Press said they will ship edibles starting in January or February.

Dispensaries are required to provide information about the various forms and methods of cannabis administration, and possible side effects.

The Illinois Department of Public Health is drafting guidance for patients regarding edible forms of cannabis and will distribute shortly, state officials said. The state already requires warnings on the products, meant to distinguish them from regular candy and food.

In Colorado, the state responded to the 2014 death of a college student who jumped from a hotel balcony after eating a potent marijuana cookie by reducing the amount of THC allowed in a serving. Dispensaries and advocates there have spread cautionary messages including “Start Low, Go Slow.”

Sarah Wright, 61, of Rock Falls, uses medical marijuana for fibromyalgia and looks forward to edibles.

“I worry about the mailman coming and smelling it,” Wright said. “You smoke it and smell it all through the house. That gets old.”