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In addition to raising food and hosting classes, a 40-acre teaching farm called Black Oaks Center has become a hub for organizing against a proposed natural gas pipeline some locals say threatens the area’s farming way of life, which is rooted in environmental stewardship.

Nicor Gas is pursuing a $10 million plan to lay more than 30 miles of gas lines to connect hundreds of Pembroke households, despite opposition. Supporters claim the project will kick-start local economic development, while opponents warn it threatens Pembroke’s rich ecosystem and could displace Black farmers.

If Pembroke is going to convert to a new energy system, members of Pembroke Environmental Justice Coalition say there are cleaner, more affordable options. The Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, passed the same session as Nicor’s funding bill, creates millions of dollars of incentives for low-income communities to convert to renewable energy.

Nicor is “locking in natural gas … at the same time that we, as a state, are passing legislation that says we want to eliminate fossil fuels” by 2045, Kearney notes.

Dr. Jifunza Wright-Carter — who runs the center with her husband, Fred Carter, puts it this way: “We need a long-term plan around our future that does not include the harm of our health and our environment.”

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