The Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) is waiting in Springfield to be passed into law. Advocates in the environmental, environmental justice, health-care, consumer, faith and jobs sectors are among those pushing hard for its passage this fall during the General Assembly’s veto session.
What is the urgency? Why now? Why can’t it wait until the next session in Springfield?
Climate change is not waiting for anyone. Greenland is melting at an unprecedented rate, which adds to rising seas, and unparalleled heat and loss of Arctic sea ice has altered weather patterns across the globe. July 2019 was the hottest month on record. September 2019 was the hottest September on record. Drought and heavy rains interrupted the planting season this year and all 102 counties is Illinois were declared agricultural disaster areas.
The Trump Administration has repealed the Clean Power Plan, supports fossil fuels and will lead us to more air and water pollution in the state and beyond. Old energy means more expensive electric bills, because oil, coal and gas are now more expensive than wind and solar. So people in Illinois are paying more for what they don’t want or need.
Important for Evanston
Another reason CEJA needs to be signed into law sooner rather than later is that the cities of Evanston and Chicago, which have passed their own climate plans, will be looking to the State to help with incentives and grants, as the federal government is rolling them back and setting policies that make clean energy more difficult to attain.
Evanston’s ambitious Climate Action and Resilience Plan has the following goals:
• Achieve carbon neutrality by 2050,
• Reach 100% clean, renewable electricity by 2030,
• Reduce vehicle miles 35% by 2030 and 50% by 2050.
• Electrify buses and fleets 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2035.
To accomplish them will require help from the State. And the sooner Evanston knows what the State is doing, the sooner it can make informed decisions.
Bill Has Broad Support
CEJA (SB2132 and HB3624) has widespread support from the public and lawmakers, including Gov. J. B. Pritzker. A May poll by Tulchin Research showed nearly 70% public support statewide. With dozens of co-sponsors on the bill, passage
is not so much a matter of whether, but rather a matter of when. It needs to be passed right now, so Illinois can continue on the road to cleaner energy and realize the economic advantages it will bring. Without legislation to unlock new resources, billions of dollars of investment in new renewable energy will stop.
• Add more than 40 million solar panels and 2,500 wind turbines across Illinois by 2030.
• Put the state on the path to 100% renewable energy by 2050.
• Achieve a carbon-free power sector by 2030.
• Electrify transportation to reduce emissions the equivalent of 1 million gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles on the state’s roads.
• Expand goals for energy efficiency to cut CO2 emissions and save on power bills.
• Promote clean energy jobs and training, especially for communities disproportionately hit by the impacts of pollution and the loss of fossil fuel jobs.
• Make solar energy and electric vehicles more available to middle and low-income communities.
CEJA would expand access to well-paying clean energy careers through Clean Jobs Workforce Hubs, Clean Energy Empowerment Zones and a Contractor Incubation Program. It would incentivize electric vehicle charging, focusing on medium and heavy-duty vehicles that have local health impacts. It directs the Illinois EPA to prioritize carbon reductions in impacted communities and reduce harmful pollution from power plants.
By 2031 CEJA would build enough new wind and solar farms to power more than five million homes, according to the Citizen’s Utility Board (CUB), which favors passage “to preserve what we have accomplished and improve upon it.” Fossil fuel generators “don’t like how cleaner energy sources have eaten into their profits” and “are working in Washington and Springfield to stop Illinois’ progress,” CUB said.
Illinois’ Leadership at Stake
Illinois has been a leader in clean energy, especially with passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) in 2017. FEJA provided $180 million a year from utilities for investment in renewable energy, and $189 million a year in State money for incentives. FEJA introduced the concept of Community Solar, in which people could buy panels in an off-site solar array to reduce their electric bills and cut their emissions. It also had a Solar for All program to share the benefits with low-income residents. And it mandated utilities to have 25% renewable energy by 2025.
Since FEJA, Illinois has gone from virtually no solar energy to having one of the fastest-growing solar industries in the U.S., adding 3,008 new jobs in 2018. But there’s not enough money to satisfy the need, especially in Community Solar where applications far outstripped available grants. FEJA made Illinois a leader in renewable energy.
But now, in just a couple of years, other states are forging ahead of us. California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Washington state, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico have all committed to 100% renewable energy by 2050 at the latest.
Gov. Pritzker said early on he favored a path to 100% clean energy. But he needs a law to sign to make it official.
How to Help
You can help by contacting your state legislators to push for passage this fall. (See https://www.cityofevanston.org/government/ elected-officials for contact information.) Even more important, call Gov. Pritzker’s office via the Illinois Clean Jobs Take Action hotline (at 1-833-NOW-CEJA) and tell him to give CEJA priority in what could be a busy session. We need it now. Environmental experts are saying the governor holds
The climate crisis has gained more public recognition as a result of the global climate strikes and is becoming a top-tier issue in the Democratic candidates’ debates. A United Nations report shortens the time for us be able to limit a climate catastrophe to 11 years, and some scientists say it is even less. Our oceans, which are rapidly warming and where the federal government wants to drill for more oil and allow the free flow of toxicity, are in trouble. Warmer oceans result in the devastation of aquatic ecosystems and also result in more intense and frequent storm systems that turn into powerful and destructive hurricanes and cyclones.
We don’t have much time, and it is up to the states, cities, businesses and people like you to make a difference. Illinois needs to add to the momentum with passage of this major climate law. Please do your part and make a few phone calls.
Head to Springfield for Clean Energy Lobby Day on Oct. 29 – free bus transportation, coordinated by the Illinois Environmental Council, is provided from several locations around the State.
Stay informed. Come to the free screening of “Paris to Pittsburgh” from 3 to 5 p.m. on Nov. 10 at Beth Emet The Free Synagogue to learn about climate solutions and how you can take meaningful action.
Get involved. Join Citizens’ Greener Evanston and help us fight climate change locally (www.greenerevanston.org).
Ms. Marquez-Viso is Vice President of Citizens’ Greener Evanston and Ms. Linton is a member of the Climate Reality Project – Chicago Chapter.