The Illinois General Assembly was scheduled to end its business Friday, but as they are not yet done negotiating next year’s budget, they are scheduled to come back this week to continue that work. Overall, it’s been a year of mixed success. Some of our priorities have passed, others have not, and worse, some bills that will result in new pollution have moved forward.
Unfortunately, the Illinois House voted down a major proposal, the Environmental Justice Act (HB2520), to require a cumulative impact analysis of large air permits submitted in environmental justice communities. The Illinois House also failed to move forward a bill related to coal ash removal in Waukegan and advanced a resolution to add lanes to I-55, which will dump diesel trucks into several southwestern Chicago environmental justice communities.
Clean Energy Issues Considered and Nuclear Ban Repealed
The legislature has considered but hasn’t advanced proposals concerning capacity; carbon capture, transportation and sequestration; hydrogen; offshore wind; transmission; and other issues and will likely continue discussions on these over the summer. However, the legislature did back the removal of a decades-old moratorium on new nuclear plants (SB76) that was slated to be in place until a solution was reached for nuclear waste storage. IEC opposed this move, particularly because it results in regulatory holes related to the siting of small modular nuclear reactors that could leave Illinois residents with no options when this energy source wants to locate next door.
Progress on Plastic Reduction
Together with the Coalition for Plastic Reduction, Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz and Sen. Laura Fine passed SB58, which will ban the purchase of polystyrene foam food ware by the state of Illinois and its contractors and vendors. This will include foam food ware-heavy state venues such as the Illinois State Fair, state universities, the Illinois State Capitol, and other facilities. IEC also supported SB1715, moved by Sen. Suzy Glowiak Hilton and Rep. Jenn Ladisch Douglass, which passed and will require bottle refill stations at new drinking fountains. Finally, HB2086, which will create health standards for bringing your own container to restaurants and retailers, was passed by Sen. Mary Edly-Allen and Rep. Anne Stava-Murray.
Huge Strides on Electrification of the Transportation Sector
The legislature passed several bills that will support the electrification of the transportation sector. Sen. Sara Feigenholtz and Leader Robyn Gabel passed SB40, which will require new construction to be EV-ready. An amendment to HB1342– originally introduced by Sen. Mike Simmons and Rep. Bob Morgan– moved by Sen. Ram Villivalam and Rep. Kam Buckner will require all buses purchased by CTA and PACE to be electric by 2026. Finally, Sen. Rachel Ventura moved SB1769, requiring all state vehicle purchases to be electric by 2030. These great bills will ensure that Illinois is leading the nation on best practices to electrify the transportation sector.
Pesticides and Sustainable Agriculture
We are so proud of the passage of SB1701, advanced by Sen. Ram Villivalam and Rep. Michael Kelly, to give the state responsibility and roles in reducing nutrient pollution from agriculture by advancing conservation practices. Rep. Dagmara Avelar and Sen. Karina Villa passed SB203, increasing fines for pesticide drift that injures people. Sen. Tom Bennett and Rep. Randy Frese also moved forward HB3277, which will create new opportunities for farmers to sell compost created on their own farms.
As you can probably tell, our team has been working hard, into the night in some cases, to make progress on as many pro-environment bills as possible this year. Our work is not done until they gavel out. Even then, we have already begun considering how we can continue to gain ground in future legislative sessions.
In the meantime, we will continue pushing for environmental priorities to be included in the Illinois state budget, especially funding for the state EV rebate program and for sustainable agriculture programs facilitated by local Soil and Water Conservation Districts. More on that soon as budget negotiations carry on.