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Q&A: First District Peoria City Council member Denise Jackson says she's open to finding 'common ground' on carbon capture

Peoria First District City Council member Denise Jackson says the city is overdue on fulfilling promises of urban renewal on the city's South Side.
Joe Deacon
Peoria First District City Council member Denise Jackson says the city is overdue on fulfilling promises of urban renewal on the city's South Side.

Peoria's 1st District city council member has been at the forefront of discussions around a pressurized carbon capture pipeline that would potentially run through her urban district if approved by state regulators.

The pipeline would transport captured carbon dioxide from the BioUrja ethanol plant to a sequestration site in Decatur. The proposal promises to reduce the plant's carbon emissions into the atmosphere, but environmentalists are raising concerns about the dire health impacts of a rupture.

In this interview, Jackson expounds upon her position on the project, and why she says she's not necessarily opposed.

We are here today to talk a little bit about the carbon capture pipeline proposal. Now, it's been in the news a lot. But tell me a little bit about what you're planning to do here.

Since we heard about it, Tim, back in February, I have been kind of collaborating with the Sierra Club and the Central Illinois Healthy (Community) Alliance, just in terms of trying to raise awareness and get the word out to the public about what this kind of project is and what it potentially could mean for the city of Peoria, particularly the South Side.

So we have just basically been trying to disseminate pass out information and inform residents so that they will learn about these kinds of projects, and as I said earlier, the potential impact. So we've scheduled one public meeting for May 22, at Carver Center at 6 p.m. So we're just inviting (and) encouraging people to come out, get as much information as they can.

Because these kinds of projects, I'm not so much opposed to it. When BioUrja came to Peoria, April 3rd, they were gracious in meeting with us. And at that time, we were informed by them that they had not signed an agreement with anyone at that time. And they were going to kind of consider their options. And hopefully we'll have an agreement towards the last quarter of the year.

Okay, so what do you want people to know about these?

Well, we understand that, you know, there's these federal incentives. But we, moving forward, as companies seek to do projects and to create improvements at facilities, we want them to at least keep the concerns of the people who live nearby in it and as part of their considerations.

This is the first project that I've been made aware of that would be in a densely populated populated area. We're not just talking about the south side of Peoria, we've got East Peoria right across the bridge, we've got Creve Coeur, we've got downtown Peoria, we've got a whole region that could potentially be impacted, should something arise. We hope that would never happen. But we just want to make sure that that residents have information.

The mayor issued her report a couple of months ago, the racial equity and social justice findings, and it talks a lot about disparities among Blacks and whites. And we've known about these as African Americans for some time, but they actually went out and did some data research.

And so it talks about disparities and everything from transportation, housing, to employment. And of course, health and Black Americans, particularly those here in the Peoria area, are some of the worst in terms of when it comes to health conditions. We suffer from asthma, we suffer from all kinds of ailments. And so we want companies to take those kinds of considerations in mind when they are doing business. If there's any way you can do things that are less harmful to the environment, less harmful to the residents in the community, we would appreciate this.

After all, this is God's country. God created this beautiful land, this world, and I believe for business and residents to live in harmony, to live in balance, and that's all we're asking. saying that as we look to redevelop our communities to bring more infrastructure improvements to bring more housing, that we can live in an area that's healthy and safe for the folks that work, not just the residents, but we've got businesses, we've got nonprofits, we've got schools, we've got a vast array of entities in this area. So we just want to make sure that we can have the safest and the healthiest environment and community as possible.

I rememberthat council meeting where this pipeline was discussed, and I think it was Andre Allen, who said something to the effect of you know, we should be talking to the mayors of East Peoria, and Bartonville, and all these other communities so that collectively as a region, we can all kind of be on the same page. Have those conversations happened?

Not to my knowledge, and hopefully at some point, as the Peoria City Council has more discussions and debate, and we have more public meetings, hopefully, we can take the lead in terms of what we want other communities to convey. And let me be clear, as I've said before, I'm not opposed to a project. But I would like for companies to consider safer ways. And if there's some way we can reach common ground in terms of moving forward in this arena, I would be more than happy to see that take place.

The Sierra Club and Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance held a press conference last week. The Peoria NAACP, and some other groups were also there. And they talked about some some proposed legislation down in Springfield to add some more regulations to these pipelines. Would you say those would address some of the concerns?

Well, I would hope so. And as some of the research we've been doing indicates that there going to be more federal guidelines coming out, I believe, next year. And we certainly would like to see what what they are. And I would think that after the situation in Mississippi, the federal government has taken a closer look at this to prevent any such situations from occurring again. So yes, I would hope that they would be guidelines that would be beneficial for all parties.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.