23,000 Illinoisans call for Clean Energy Jobs Act

Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition presents petition to Gov. Pritzker

By Ted Cox | One Illinois

CHICAGO — Grassroots groups joined to present a petition to Gov. Pritzker on Monday signed by more than 23,000 Illinoisans calling for passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

“The Clean Energy Jobs Act takes immediate and decisive action in the face of our climate crisis,” said state Rep. Joyce Mason of Gurnee, a House sponsor of the legislation, at a Monday news conference at the Thompson Center in Chicago. After the event, activists delivered the petition to the Governor’s Office.

Mason said her top priority is that CEJA provides “a just transition” for communities thrown into turmoil by declining use of fossil fuels and other forms of what’s considered old energy, and she specifically cited the Zion Nuclear Power Station in her district along the shore of Lake Michigan.

“For decades, Zion was home to a nuclear power plant that provided the city with an abundance of jobs and economic prosperity,” she said. When the plant was “suddenly shut down in the late ‘90s,” Mason added, “there was no backup plan. There was no just transition.

“Zion’s economy was left in shambles,” she said, and those economic tremors are still being felt. “It is critical that we never put another Illinois community through an unjust transition like the one endured by the people of Zion.”

Last year, energy companies announced the impending closure of a handful of coal-burning power plants across Illinois, and according to Mason CEJA would protect the communities that have sustained those plants over the last decades.

CEJA would force coal-power companies to confront pollution such as coal ash and the “economic devastation” of communities that lose jobs when plants close. It also sets goals for the state to go to carbon-free energy by 2030 and to entirely renewable energy by 2050, with corresponding moves to shift public transportation to electric vehicles and strengthen energy-efficiency programs. It would also spark investments in local businesses in renewable energy — such as rooftop solar — and retrain coal workers, in mines and power plants, to fill jobs in renewable energy.

“CEJA promotes community stability during change,” said Colin Byers, a Waukegan teacher and member of Clean Power Lake County.

John Delury, Midwest director of Vote Solar, said CEJA was needed to build on the progress of the state’s Future Energy Jobs Act, which took effect in 2017 and “drew companies and investment into the state” in solar energy.

“Solar businesses and the jobs and tax revenue they bring are booming throughout Illinois,” Delury said. “More solar was installed during the first three quarters of 2019 than in the prior 10 years combined.”

That, he added, ran counter to national trends under the Trump administration, as in 2018 solar jobs actually declined 3.2 percent nationwide, but grew 37 percent in Illinois.

Christina Uzzo, of the Citizens Utility Board, echoed points made last week by CEJA sponsors in the General Assembly that it was needed urgently to protect the state from a potential $864 million electricity rate hike brought on by President Trump’s appointees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Those commissioners recently voted to force Illinois to buy energy through a federal auction weighted to prioritize fossil fuels — something Uzzo called a “massive coal bailout” — but CEJA would designate the Illinois Power Agency as the state provider.

According to Uzzo, the Trump initiative would “counteract any progress that has been made toward achieving a cleaner, more affordable clean-energy future.” Calling CEJA “the most consumer-friendly piece of energy legislation in Springfield,” she said it included “ironclad consumer protections” setting lower utility rates, as well as energy-efficiency goals that could produce $700 million in savings.

“We must have CEJA now before FERC’s new rules take effect and force us to pay for new, expensive dirty-energy projects that Illinoisans don’t want or need,” Uzzo said. She emphasized that “renewable (energy) generation is now cheaper to build than new fossil-fuel generation.”

Read the article at One Illinois.