Fall 2022 McLean County Household Hazardous Waste Collection Cancelled Due to Processing Facility Fire

For Immediate Release: Friday, August 19, 2022
Contact: Michael Brown (309) 454-3169 x.11

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has cancelled the September 2022 McLean County Household Hazardous Waste Collection event due to insufficient capacity for processing hazardous waste materials after a June fire at their contractor’s Liverpool, Ohio processing facility.  Heritage Environmental has ceased accepting many categories of hazardous waste materials until the facility is repaired.  It is unlikely to be operational until late fall.

This temporary shutdown is likely to affect operations at all permanent Illinois Household Hazardous Waste Collection facilities and some or all fall HHW collection events in Illinois.  The Ecology Action Center (EAC) strongly recommends that residents safely store all Household Hazardous Waste materials until events resume next year.  The EAC anticipates the next McLean County Household Hazardous Waste Collection will be held in the fall of 2023.  Residents are encouraged to sign up for the EAC’s hazardous waste collection email notification list in order to stay in the loop on future collection events.  This email signup is available at https://ecologyactioncenter.org/hhw/hhwupdates/.

Household Hazardous Waste Collections in McLean County are coordinated by the Ecology Action Center as the community environmental sustainability agency with support from the Illinois EPA, the City of Bloomington, Town of Normal, McLean County, and Bloomington Normal Water Reclamation District.  The fall 2022 HHW collection had additional support provided by Heartland Community College and Republic Services.

Household Hazardous Wastes are materials and chemicals that are toxic, flammable, corrosive, reactive, or explosive. They typically cannot be safely recycled or disposed of without a special center or collection event. These wastes can be a serious threat to water supplies and public health if they are improperly discarded with nonhazardous trash (put into a municipal solid waste landfill), dumped down the drain, or illegally dumped elsewhere.

The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit environmental agency with a mission to inspire and assist residents of McLean County in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment.  The EAC acts as a central resource for environmental education, information, outreach, and technical assistance in McLean County.

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What’s going on with my electric bill?

Municipal Electricity Aggregation and Rising Electricity Costs for Ameren Customers in Bloomington Normal

The Town of Normal and City of Bloomington have both entered into a new municipal aggregation contract with Constellation Energy. The contract is for 3 years and begins on July 1, 2022. These contracts offer a fixed electric supply rate of 7.859 cents/kWh (with an option for 8.324 cents/kWh for a renewable energy source option).

Residents with Ameren electric service are automatically enrolled in the 7.859 cents/kWh rate. To opt-in to the renewable energy option, or opt-out of the aggregation contract call 833-358-0518. If you opt-out, you cannot opt back in for 12 months.

The 7.859 cents/kWh rate is higher than the current aggregation contract rate (this contract ends June 30, 2022), and the current Ameren rate (which will increase June 1, 2022). Please read on below for more information on what municipal aggregation is, how it works, the potential benefits, and for information on expected Ameren rate increases slated to begin June 1, 2022.

What is Municipal Electricity Aggregation?

  • The Illinois Power Agency Act allows municipalities or counties to negotiate the purchase of of the combined electric supply from an Alternate Retail Energy Supplier (ARES) for residents and small businesses.
  • The residents of the Town of Normal voted to approve municipal aggregation in 2012, and the residents of the City of Bloomington followed suit in 2013.
  • Only Ameren customers are eligible for municipal aggregation. Members of Corn Belt Energy Cooperative are excluded.
  • Electric aggregation allows the Town and the City to secure bulk pricing through a bidding process, and provide rate stability through the designated contract period (typically 2 or 3 years).

How does electric aggregation work on my bill?

  • Through the electric aggregation process, the City and the Town secure a new electricity supplier for Ameren customers. Electricity delivery remains with Ameren and your monthly electric bill will still come from Ameren.
  • Residents can also opt into a “green” option (see explanation of renewable energy sources below) at slightly higher rate.
  • All Ameren customers in Bloomington and Normal are automatically enrolled in aggregation and must opt out if they want their supply service to remain with Ameren or if they have an individual contract with a different ARES.

What are the potential benefits to participating in municipal aggregation?

  • Secure rates. Ameren rates are subject to change twice a year. They send their rate proposals to the Illinois Commerce Commission for approval. Locking in a known rate through the municipal aggregation program can help reduce the risk of fluctuating and unknown rates.
  • Potential lower rates: The current Ameren price to compare (which is the combination of the Ameren Electric Supply and Transmission charge) through May 2022 is 5.478 cents per kWh. Ameren submitted new rate documents to the Illinois Commerce Commission on April 22, 2022. The new price to compare beginning June 1, 2022 will be 10.628 cents/kWh, and will increase to 11.5 cents/kWh from October 1, 2022 – May 31, 2023.
  • Energy from 100% renewable sources. This does not mean the actual electricity you consume comes directly from a renewable energy source like wind or solar. The grid is constantly being fed by a variety of energy sources from nuclear to solar to coal. Plans that offer renewable sources mean that the energy supplier (in this case Constellation Energy) is buying renewable energy credits (RECs) on your behalf. The RECs represent clean energy that is being added to the power grid somewhere.
  • Reduces hassle. Illinois’ deregulated energy market allows residents to purchase energy from other suppliers and other forms of reduced energy rates on their own, but this can be time-consuming and stressful, and risk potential scams.

Why are Ameren rates increasing?

  • Ameren rates are increasing significantly for a variety of reasons. Ameren is part of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), which is one of many independent organizations that handle electric grid operations, market facilitation for certain electric markets, and bulk electric system planning. MISO is responsible for operating the power grid across 15 U.S. states including most of Illinois (excluding the Chicago area). As part of MISO, Ameren is required to purchase energy capacity at the price MISO sets. The annual MISO capacity auction surged to $236.66 per megawatt-day from $5 a year ago for the Midwest region. MISO generating capacity was underestimated last year, and now costs are rising as a result of increased electricity demand as pandemic restrictions ease combined with a decrease in generation (renewable energy development is increasing, but is only partially weighted in the capacity market, and more coal-fired plants are going offline), and other market influences including inflation and the war in Ukraine. The rise in Ameren rates represents the increased wholesale price of electricity.

Other considerations:

  • You can cancel your aggregation participation anytime without penalty. Just contact Constellation at 833-358-0518. This means that if at any time Ameren’s rates appear lower than the pricing offered through aggregation (keep in mind Ameren’s rates can change every 6 months, and go back up at any time) you can cancel your participation.
  • If you have a solar installation (roof or ground mount), Illinois law requires ARES to provide net metering to customers.
  • If you have a community solar subscription, you can still participate in aggregation. However, it is important to remember that the 20% discount on your energy supply that most community solar subscriptions offer is a 20% discount on the Ameren rate, not a rate from an ARES.

What can I do about rising energy costs?

  • Remember, the cheapest kilowatt-hour is the one you never use! Energy efficiency is a great way to save money on your utility bills, and the utility companies offer a variety of rebates and incentives for efficiency upgrades. Contact the Ecology Action Center to schedule a home energy assessment and let us help you find easy ways to save money by reducing your energy needs and consumption! Learn more at BNenergyBright or by calling 309-454-3169 x.15 or email [email protected]create new email.
  • The EAC is also a great resource for information on renewable energy options. If you are interested in pursuing solar, we can help you get started!
  • The EAC is a grassroots educator for the Illinois Solar for All program, which is state program designed to increase access to solar for income-qualifying (80% Area Median Income) residents and non-profits and public facilities that serve income-qualifying residents.

Who is the Ecology Action Center?

  • The Ecology Action Center is the nonprofit environmental sustainability agency for Bloomington, Normal, and McLean County.
  • The EAC provides a broad array of educational programs and services related to energy efficiency, renewable energy, air quality, waste reduction and recycling, clean water protection, climate change, and much more.

Ecology Action Center Seeks Volunteers & Donations for 2022 Effort to Plant 10,000 Trees

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release: Tuesday, March 29, 2022
Contact:   Michael Brown, (309) 454-3169 x.11

In 2021, with the help of hundreds of donors and volunteers and multiple partner organizations, the Ecology Action Center (EAC) successfully led the planting of 10,000 new trees in McLean County under a new initiative called the Tree Corps.  But that was just year one of a planned 10+ year effort; 2022 brings a new Tree Corps campaign–Putting Down Roots!

“Trees are the answer,” says EAC Executive Director Michael Brown.  “Air quality improvement for public health.  Carbon sequestration to reduce the impacts of climate change.  Watershed protection.  Increased habitat and food sources for native pollinators and other native wildlife.  Increased shade for cooling of urban areas with a lot of pavement.  Trees do it all.”

The Ecology Action Center is seeking donations and sponsorships to make this large-scale tree effort happen.  “No donation is too small or too large,” says Brown, “whether you are covering the cost of one tree by donating $5 or 200 trees by donating $1000, it all makes a difference.”  Donations are currently being accepted at the EAC’s Tree Corps webpages at Tree-Corps.org.

The EAC invites groups to work together towards a collective fundraising goal by forming a “Tree Team” with friends, coworkers, family, or other groups.  Setting a larger goal of $500 or $1000 for more trees is much easier to achieve as group and the EAC’s website makes Tree Team collaboration easy.  Full details on Tree Teams is available at Tree-Corps.org.

Tree Teams or individuals are also needed to help with planting workdays to get the trees in the ground this spring.  The first planting workdays are scheduled for April 9 and 10 at Heartland Community College.  Full details and volunteer signup can be found at Tree-Corps.org.

The 2022 Tree Corps Putting Down Roots Campaign is a partnership between the Ecology Action Center, Heartland Community College, Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District, Sugar Grove Nature Center, ParkLands Foundation, and the Friends of Constitution Trail.

The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit environmental agency with a mission to inspire and assist residents of McLean County in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment.  The EAC acts as a central resource for environmental education, information, outreach, and technical assistance in McLean County.

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Ecology Action Center seeks nominations for McLean County Green Awards 2021

The Ecology Action Center presents the annual McLean County Green Awards to recognize local efforts to improve our environment. Nominations are now being accepted for the 2021 awards, with recipients being named at an online event on February 9, 2022.

The McLean County Recycling and Waste Reduction Award identifies businesses, schools or organizations with outstanding recycling programs or waste reduction efforts or individuals who have played a role in a successful program or effort. While nominations will be accepted for any recycling or waste reduction project, areas of growing interest include source reduction efforts, especially alternatives to single use items (plastic or paper grocery bags, etc.).

The Anne McGowan Making a World of Difference Award recognizes outstanding projects, activities, or individuals in McLean County who promote environmental awareness or natural resource conservation. The EAC dedicated the World of Difference Award in memory of McGowan, an early director of the EAC, due to her ability to inspire and motivate others to take action.  Former EAC Executive Director Michelle Covi described Anne as a catalyst for action.

She was energetic and never hesitated to get her hands dirty. Her natural curiosity and love of the natural world fueled her passion for wildlife exploration and preservation. She shared her love with children and adults alike when she conducted nature walks, wildflower walks, and nature programs. She inspired and nurtured life-long dedication to environmental awareness and conservation in children, college students, and adults whose lives she touched.

In the spirit of Anne, the EAC seeks nominations of worthy projects, organizations, or individuals in nomination for the Anne McGowan Making World of Difference Award or the McLean County Recycling and Waste Reduction Award. Current EAC Executive Director Michael Brown suggested, “if more of us followed the outstanding example set by Anne McGowan, the world would be a much better place.”

Nominations may be made online at our website or by stopping by the Ecology Action Center at 202 W College Avenue in Normal; all submissions are due by Monday, January 3, 2022 at 5 p.m.

 The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit environmental agency with a mission to inspire and assist residents of McLean County in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment.  The EAC acts as a central resource for environmental education, information, outreach, and technical assistance in McLean County.

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City of Bloomington 2020 Holiday Collection Updates

Solid Waste Collection for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Bulk waste and brush will not be collected, and the Citizen Convenience Center will be closed, on Thursday, December 24, for Christmas Eve. Garbage and recycling will be collected on the regularly-scheduled collection day. Garbage and recycling must be placed in the proper container at the curb, not in the street, no earlier than 2:00 p.m. on the day prior to scheduled collection and no later than 6:00 a.m. on collection day.

Garbage, recycling, brush, and bulk will not be collected, and the Citizen Convenience Center will be closed, on Friday, December 25, for Christmas Day. Materials normally collected on that day will be collected on Monday, December 28. Bulk waste and brush will not be collected on Monday, December 28, and will be collected on Tuesday, December 29.

Solid Waste Collection for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day

Bulk waste and brush will not be collected, and the Citizen Convenience Center will be closed, on Thursday, December 31, and Friday, January 1, for New Year’s. Garbage and recycling will be collected on regularly-scheduled collection days. Garbage and recycling must be placed in the proper container at the curb, not in the street, no earlier than 2:00 p.m. on the day prior to scheduled collection and no later than 6:00 a.m. on collection day.

Your Guide to Holiday Clean-up

The holidays shouldn’t leave you feeling trashed!

Here are collection schedule updates, plus some better options for many of the items on your post-holiday clean-up list.

Collection schedule updates for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day:
For residents enrolled the Town of Normal waste collection program
For residents enrolled in the City of Bloomington waste collection program

 

Other options:

Wrapping Paper can be recycled, as long as it is free of plastic, wax, shiny or metallic stuff.

Clean, dry cardboard can also be recycled! Just fold or cut to fit in your cart.

Styrofoam containers and packing materials can be dropped off at Dart Container Corporation (1505 East Main Street, Urbana, IL). Make sure materials are clean and dry.

Live-cut Christmas trees can be turned into firewood, compost, and more. Please remove all decorations & lights! For residents of Bloomington and Normal who are enrolled in those municipalities’ waste collection programs, live-cut trees are picked up curbside on the regularly scheduled waste collection day.  Other area residents can check with your waste disposal provider or drop off at Twin City Wood Recycling (1606 W Oakland Ave, Bloomington) for a fee of $1. Call John at 309-275-2854 to ensure someone will be there when you drop off.

String lights will be recycled locally for charity if you drop them off at St Luke Union Church (2101 E Washington St, Bloomington). Small or “twinkle” light bulbs can be left on the string, but please remove larger bulbs and any other decor before donating.

Food waste? Waste no more! Sign up here for our Community Composting program to turn trimmings into treasure!

Community Solar is now available – get clean renewable energy without an installation!

Do you want to power your home with clean, renewable solar energy but can’t or don’t want to bother with a rooftop installation?

Community Solar may be for you!

Companies managing community solar arrays approved by the Illinois Power Agency in early 2019 are now actively seeking customers for community solar subscriptions.  Here are few things to keep in mind if you are interested in pursuing community solar.

What is community solar?

A large solar array in your utility territory (in central Illinois that means Ameren) that feeds the electricity it produces directly to the power grid. Customers sign up for their own shares of the array, the size of the share is based on your home electricity usage. Subscribers receive credits on their utility bill for the energy generated by their share, and they purchase those credits at a discounted rate from the company managing the community solar array.
As an example: you use 600kWh of electricity in a month, and your community solar subscription generated 500kWh worth of electricity. Your Ameren bill will show the 600kWh usage, with a 500kWh credit. You will pay your Ameren supply rate for the remaining 100kWh. You will pay your delivery fees and taxes to Ameren for the full 600kWh. You will receive a subsequent bill from your community solar provider for the 500kWh – but the rate you are charge for that energy is 20% lower than the Ameren supply rate charge.

Who is eligible?

Anyone who receives electricity services from Ameren Illinois can be a community solar subscriber (Corn Belt customers do not have community solar options available to them). Community solar is a great option for homeowners who have heavy shade making on-site solar nonviable.  Renters can also participate in community solar so long as they are responsible for their own utility bill (and electricity is not included in their rent). Community solar is also a great option for people who might not be able to afford the upfront investment required for a home solar installation. However, the Illinois Solar for All program provides rooftop solar options with no upfront costs and community solar options with increased savings for income-eligibleopens PDF file  residents. Check with the EAC for details about these options! Community solar subscriptions for income-eligible residents offer the energy supply at 50% lower than the Ameren supply rate.

Interested in signing up?

The Ecology Action Center recently signed up for a community solar subscription through Nexamp for our building. The subscription offers a 20% savings on energy supply (the fee they charge per kWh of energy produced by your portion of the solar array would be 20% less than Ameren’s supply charge), has no sign-up fee, and no cancellation fee (important to remember, you can take your community solar subscription with you if you move to another home that is still in Ameren territory).
Residents in Ameren territory interested in signing up witht NexAmp can do so hereThis referral code at this link will give both you and the EAC and extra bonus when you sign up.  NexAmp will ask you for 12 months of your energy usage to determine what size portion of the community solar array will cover your energy needs. The community solar array won’t likely start producing energy until next year. Before your community solar service begins, residents participating in Bloomington and Normal’s municipal aggregation will need to opt-out of service. If you are unsure whether or not you are getting your energy supply from an alternate energy retail supplier, look at the energy supply section of your Ameren bill. If you are enrolled in municipal aggregation, Homefield Energy will be listed as your supplier (see picture below). To opt-out of aggregation just call their number at 866-694-1262 and cancel.
Please contact Larissa Armstrong at [email protected] or 309-454-3169 x15 with questions or for more information.