© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

McLean County gets $200K state grant for energy and climate planning

Michael Brown
Eric Stock
Michael Brown is executive director of the Ecology Action Center in Normal.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded just over $900,000 to four recipients in the state — including McLean County. It’s part of the first round of Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) funding.

McLean County was awarded $200,000. That money is split between improvements for the McLean County Health Department and the Ecology Action Center (EAC) in Normal. The EAC is a nonprofit focused on strengthening and upholding a healthy environment.

The EAC has been trying to conduct a study on ways to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions in McLean County and prioritize other issues since 2019, but it’s been in limbo thanks to the pandemic and staffing issues.

EAC executive director Michael Brown told WGLT the funding from the Illinois EPA will help propel the study forward.

“We’re hoping probably within the next two years to get it done. It has been delayed a couple times but this influx of financial resources through this Illinois EPA grant will really help us get this started again,” said Brown.

Environmental justice is one subject to be prioritized. The Illinois EPA identified parts of west Bloomington and north Normal as areas of concern. Brown said it’s something that will be looked into further.

“We have disproportionate environmental impacts on residents in those areas which often are more predominantly areas of people of color or people of lower income brackets,” said Brown. “And so that’s essentially the definition of the environmental justice area, it kind of begs the question, why do we have disproportionate environmental impacts, public health impacts, on certain segments of our community and what can we do to resolve that?”

The grant money going to the McLean County Health Department is partially tied to the federal government’s Justice40 initiative, in which 40% of benefits must go to aiding disadvantaged communities. The health department is seen as a major benefactor to those groups.

Aside from that, Brown said the EAC will look at everything with a broad lens.

“We’re looking at all the various energy usages, whether it is electricity and gas in homes and buildings and industry, but also transportation issues and just all the corresponding pollution sources that come from those. And so it is about incentivizing cleaner transportation, it is about more and better public transportation. It is about making more walkable communities in terms of the whole transportation sector. It’s basically all of the above,” said Brown.

Other recent environmental projects in McLean County include the replacement of aging heating boilers in three government buildings and the replacement of downtown lighting with LEDs. Both of those projects are ongoing.

Air sealing was recently completed at the McLean County Museum of History. And a project to replace an old HVAC system and update the water system and lighting at the county-owned nursing home is currently being scoped.

The full breakdown of the Illinois EPA grant funding is listed below:

  • Jackson County: $249,900
  • McLean County: $200,000
  • Village of Ford Heights (Cook County): $212,300
  • Village of Lincolnwood (Cook County): $240,000
  • Total grant amount: $902,200
Jack Podlesnik was a reporter and announcer at WGLT. He joined the station in 2021.