Springfield, IL. — More than 400 Illinoisans mobilized today to urge their representatives in the Illinois General Assembly to pass bills that protect the environment and address climate injustices impacting historically marginalized communities across Illinois. At a rally outside of the Capitol Building and during meetings with legislators, advocates and activists called for the legislature to pass a slate of environmental legislation that addresses myriad issues.
“In passing the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) in 2021, we made a plan for Illinois’ 100% clean energy future and a just transition away from dirty fossil fuels. Now, environmental, public health, and consumer advocates across the state are building on the success of CEJA and taking a comprehensive approach to tackling the climate crisis,” said Jen Walling, Director of the Illinois Environmental Council. “The bills we’re advocating for on Environmental Lobby Day tackle everything from energy affordability, to accelerating the electrification of our energy and transportation sectors, to protecting our communities from pollution and environmental degradation.”
In meetings with their State Senators and Representatives, concerned advocates lobbied for a sweeping suite of nine bills that promote environmental protection and climate justice, including:
- Environmental Justice Act (HB2520)
- Coal Ash (HB1608)
- Clean Heat
- Electrify the Transportation Sector (HB1634/SB2050)
- Climate Resilient Building Code Standards (SB2368)
- Polystyrene Foam Ban (HB2376)
- Partners for Conservation Reauthorization Act (SB1701)
- Carbon Capture and Sequestration (HB3119)
- People’s Utility Rate Relief Act (HB2172)
The Coal Ash bill (HB1608) directs NRG Energy to remove all coal ash from the Waukegan Generating Station, which has been contaminating groundwater on the shores of Lake Michigan for over a decade. The bill also requires increased notice and public hearings in communities when a local power plant is set to be demolished. The Environmental Justice Act (HB2520) requires a cumulative impact assessment to determine if new air pollution will endanger a community and gives communities a greater voice in air permitting matters.
“Both the Coal Ash Removal bill and the Environmental Justice Act send a message to corporate polluters that environmental justice communities will no longer be sacrifice zones for industrial or power plant pollution,” said Celeste Flores, Steering Committee Member of Clean Power Lake County. “Communities that are already overburdened by environmental injustices shouldn’t have to live in fear of groundwater contamination, increased air pollution, or the innumerable health impacts that come when polluting industries set up shop. Polluters must be responsible for cleaning up their own mess, and the Coal Ash bill and the Environmental Justice Act take a critical step in ensuring just that.”
Advocates are also urging support for bills that accelerate the electrification of the buildings and transportation sectors. CEJA sparked our clean energy future, and the Clean Heat Act and Electrify the Transportation Sector Act (HB1634/SB2050) address the need to electrify motor vehicles in order to improve outdoor air quality and the need to electrify buildings in order to improve indoor air quality.
“Right now, Illinois relies on dangerous, expensive, and climate-killing fossil fuels like so-called ‘natural’ gas to fuel our homes, cars, and trucks. In order to eliminate the threat of toxic air, prioritize environmental justice, and save consumers money in energy and healthcare costs, Illinois must pass the Electrify the Transportation Sector Act and Clean Heat Act,” said José Miguel Acosta-Córdova, Senior Transportation Policy Analyst with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. “Every Illinoisan deserves to breathe clean air, and legislators can act now to make that vision a reality.”
In addition, activists are lobbying their legislators to support bills that protect Illinois’ natural resources and mitigate the effects of climate change. Climate Resilient Building Code Standards (SB2368) modernizes building code standards to mitigate the worst impacts of natural disasters. The Polystyrene Foam Ban (HB2376) bans toxic polystyrene foam in order to reduce single-use plastic waste. The Partners for Conservation Reauthorization Act (SB1701) invests in Illinois’ Soil & Water Conservation Districts in order to promote conservation practices in our most sensitive watersheds.
“We can’t solve climate change if we don’t protect nature,” said Jack Darin, Director of Sierra Club Illinois. “We owe it to our young people and the future to provide safe, clean open space that gives all kids healthy places to experience nature and wildlife without plastic trash cluttering our parks, trails, and waterways. We thank those who came to Springfield today to urge lawmakers to protect Illinois’ wild places for our communities.”