8/2/16 – Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition calls on state leaders to solve jobs crisis and promote clean energy in low-income communities

August 2, 2016

IL Clean Jobs Coalition
Billy Weinberg
(312) 485-4363

Pete Giangreco
(312) 543-4097

With state budget crisis behind it for now, Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition calls on state leaders to solve jobs crisis and promote clean energy in low-income communities

Nation’s only hearings on EPA’s clean energy program point to urgency of Illinois passing energy efficiency, solar, wind and low-income energy policies that can create 32,000 new jobs and help economically hard-hit communities

With the only hearings in the country on a clean energy plan being held in Chicago this week, and with recent news that Illinois trails other states in clean energy while posting one of the nation’s worst unemployment rates, members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition urged Governor Rauner and state leaders on Tuesday to act on state and national proposals that together can create 32,000 new jobs over the next decade and deliver key economic and health benefits, especially in low-income communities.

They pointed out that the hearings put Chicago and the state of Illinois front and center on the issue of clean energy and should spur state leaders to take advantage of benefits available to states that move forward quickly to implement renewable energy and energy efficiency plans.

The U.S. EPA will conduct the public hearing on its proposed Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) in Chicago on August 3. It is the only time the EPA is scheduled to hold hearings on the subject.

“If crafted properly, the CEIP can be utilized to promote development in the communities that need it most, provide jobs, and ensure a healthier environment for all citizens,” said Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council, who took part in a tele-conference today in advance of the hearing.

“The EPA’s decision to come to Chicago underscores that our community has a vital stake in this issue— and reminds us that Illinoisans, across party lines, broadly support clean energy. It would be unfortunate if Illinois leaders failed to capitalize on the public’s eagerness for swift action in this area,” Walling added.

Issues of environmental justice will be a central focus of testimony given at the EPA hearing, and advocates are expected to stress the need to break down barriers that have blocked clean energy from reaching people most impacted by pollution.

“The CEIP program is a rare opportunity to deliver real economic benefits— including thousands of new jobs— to all communities across Illinois, especially communities that have often been the hardest hit by climate change, pollution and economic hardship. Every day Illinois wastes by not acting on clean energy, we lose out on jobs, and we deny our children and seniors better health, which is the moral imperative addressed by the Clean Power Plan,” said Rev. Booker Steven Vance of Faith in Place.

“Illinois hasn’t modernized clean energy policy in a way that creates jobs since 2007, and we are falling behind other states. Now that the state’s budget crisis is over, its time for Governor Rauner and state leaders to focus on the jobs crisis that has left Illinois with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country,” said Mike Hornitschek of StraightUp Solar in Metro East. “At the same time, through the CEIP and legislation at the state level, we need to promote programs like community solar that to date have been far too limited in Illinois.”

“We can put people to work, put savings in consumers’ pockets and give everyone in Illinois cleaner air, while breaking down barriers that have blocked some communities– including those that have been impacted the most by pollution and climate change– from taking part in the clean energy economy,” Mark Handy, CEO of Kenjiva Energy Systems. “But only if Illinois acts—and acts quickly.”

The CEIP is a voluntary program meant to provide incentives to states for more rapid development of clean energy projects, particularly in low-income communities. The program is part of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the nation’s first-ever plan to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. The CEIP encourages states to make early investments in renewable energy projects, such as wind and solar, and provides added incentives for energy efficiency and solar projects that serve low-income communities.

“The CEIP gives us the chance to spur energy efficiency investments in communities where such programs have in the past been unavailable or unaffordable. For many low-income residents, energy efficiency is what makes affordable housing truly affordable,” said Anne McKibbin of Elevate Energy, a non-profit that designs and implements energy efficiency programs and which works with local contractors on energy efficiency projects, including retrofitting multi-family buildings in low-income neighborhoods.

Members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, a broad coalition of more than 150 businesses and 60 organizations, said that Illinois can take advantage of the CEIP and enact core elements of the bipartisan Illinois Clean Jobs Bill pending in Springfield that would create more than 32,000 jobs over a decade once it ramps up.

Meantime, recent jobs data released in July show Illinois tied for the third-worst unemployment rate in the U.S., further highlighting the opportunity presented by clean energy legislation. Illinois’ unemployment rate among minorities is also among the worst in the U.S. For example, according to the Economic Policy Institute, of states surveyed, Illinois had the highest unemployment rate for African Americans (14.1 %) in the first quarter of 2016, far above the national rate of 9%.

“A chance to create 32,000 new jobs doesn’t come along everyday, especially when coupled with programs to bring benefits to consumers and communities who need them most,” McKibbin added.

“We need a clean energy infrastructure in place and ready to go the moment these benefits take effect. Illinois has already allowed other states to pass us by in renewable energy, losing 500 wind and solar jobs last year, falling behind Oklahoma in wind production, with Kansas poised to overtake Illinois soon,” said Kevin Borgia, policy manager of Wind on the Wires, which advocates for expanding wind energy in the Midwest. “Letting the CEIP slip through our fingers would be yet another lost opportunity with big economic costs for Illinois.”

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