CEJA Would Create Thousands of Jobs, Billions of Clean Energy Private Investment & End Utility Handouts
Chicago — As Illinois faces an economic and public health crisis, a racial and economic justice crisis, and a crisis of utility corruption, the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition announced a strengthened version of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), reinforcing its status as the only comprehensive climate bill focused on equitable job creation and economic recovery, and the only bill written with communities in mind. The updated bill comes with the urgency of providing aid for communities of color most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need for significant new reforms to put an end to utility-friendly policies in Illinois.
“Comprehensive energy legislation that moves Illinois to a clean energy future and away from dirty and expensive fossil fuels that have contributed to the climate crisis has never been more important,” said Sen. Cristina Castro, CEJA sponsor. “The Clean Energy Jobs Act can create new, equitable job opportunities that put people back to work. It is time to put the people of Illinois and clean, affordable energy first.”
“Profits, rather than people, have dictated energy policy in Illinois for too long, at the expense of residents and small businesses. Energy policy should put people and communities first,” said Rep. Ann Williams, CEJA sponsor. “The new version of CEJA will make Illinois a national model for addressing climate change and restoring the public’s trust by requiring significant accountability, transparency and ethics requirements for utilities.”
The revisions to CEJA were announced today during a statewide press conference with Jack Darin, of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club; Dulce Ortiz, of Clean Power Lake County; Rev. Tony Pierce, of Illinois People’s Action; and Tonyisha Harris, youth activist.
“Elected officials must take a stand against the Trump administration and dirty corporations like NRG Energy, in the interest of communities like Waukegan. We are tired, we have been waiting for many years and an incremental approach is not going to work any longer,” said Dulce Ortiz
of Clean Power Lake County. “It’s time to move to a new clean energy economy in Illinois and the Clean Energy Jobs Act will address the historic inequities of pollution, provide immediate support for black and brown communities, mostly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, by putting an end to the toxic pollution in our backyards, and hold fossil fuel interests and utilities accountable.”
As Illinois grapples with the unprecedented job losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, CEJA would create jobs in communities where workers and small businesses have been hit hardest — predominantly communities of color experiencing disproportionate numbers of COVID-19 illnesses and deaths and downstate communities left in a lurch by coal plant closures. Under the updated legislation, Illinois would increase the amount of clean energy in the state by four to five times and bring in more than $30 billion in new private investment to Illinois by 2030.
“CEJA is Illinois’ best vehicle to simultaneously impact the climate crisis, racial injustice and the COVID-induced economic downturn,” said Rev. Tony Pierce of Illinois People’s Action. “It provides opportunities for Black and Brown people to find jobs, sustain businesses and build wealth. CEJA’s Workforce Hubs prepare workers for jobs in the clean energy industry and then connect them with real jobs. The allied Entrepreneurship and Contractor Incubators equip new and struggling businesses with skills to succeed in the clean energy economy. It’s a win for people who have been left out of previous economic booms in our communities and state.”
“There is no morally, scientifically or politically justifiable reason to delay action on climate change or ignore the devastation future generations will face if action isn’t taken now,” said Tonyisha Harris, Illinois youth activist. “We will not allow fossil fuels companies, who are dirty in more ways than one, to cheat young people out of our futures.”
“The extraordinary crises facing Illinois right now call for bold action this fall that puts the people of Illinois first, not utilities and polluters. All of our communities, and especially our communities of color, need lower electric bills, new job opportunities, and cleaner air, and those are the goals of the Clean Energy Jobs Act,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Utilities are supposed to serve the people, but for too long it’s been the other way around in Illinois. It’s time to listen to the people of Illinois and what they want for their energy future, and pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act this year.”
Equity and economic opportunity highlights of the updated legislation (House Bill 3624/Senate Bill 2132) include:
- Equity: A new Equity Points System for companies seeking renewable energy, energy efficiency and electric vehicle contracts will require companies to commit to equity in hiring, ownership, subcontracting, pay, and community
- Workforce Training and Entrepreneurship: Expansion of the Clean Jobs Workforce Hubs and Clean Energy Contractor Incubator programs to additional communities in underserved parts of Illinois and expanded support for apprenticeships and on-the-job training.
- Community-based Solutions: Doubling down on community-based solutions with local community-led jobs and workforce planning, new incentive programs for multi-family housing solar projects, and requirements to ensure clean energy programs reach and benefit low-income and environmental justice communities across the
- Accelerating Renewable Energy Expansion: With current solar programs either closed or on the verge of closing, the bill will require immediate re-opening of the rooftop and community solar programs to get solar installers back to
In addition, advocates announced the need to create a regulatory system in state law to ensure that electric utilities truly serve the public interest, operate transparently, and are held accountable to Illinois customers and communities. This includes:
- Ending formula rate increases, and directing the ICC to only approve utility investments, programs, and rates that are cost-effective and contribute to a cleaner, more equitable, and more reliable electric
- Replacing Illinois’ outdated approach to utility regulation with Integrated Grid Planning — a holistic, customer-focused, long-term planning process that coordinates investments in clean energy, efficiency, and
- Requiring utilities to pursue goals like affordability and equity and getting rid of utility incentive to make more profit simply by spending more customer This way, utilities only make more money when they do a better job.
- Increasing diverse public participation in utility planning, requiring performance goals to be based on public input, and including resources for community groups to participate in utility planning
- Prohibiting the use of ratepayer funds for expenses related to federal investigations or ethics
- Going beyond the ‘self-policing’ ethics requirements set forth in the ComEd deferred prosecution agreement by creating an independent monitor to ensure ethics compliance within all
- Provide restitution for ratepayers by requiring ComEd’s shareholders to repurpose their ill-gained profits for programs that benefit communities that need resources
The Clean Jobs Coalition is made up of more than 200 consumer, business, environmental, environmental justice, health care, faith-based and student organizations. Visit ilcleanjobs.org to learn more about the Clean Energy Jobs Act and the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition.