Listed below are some of the priority bills that the environmental community is supporting in 2013.
SB 1666, The Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Act. (Rep. Deb Mell and Sen. Dave Koehler) SB 1666 would label genetically engineered (GE) food, with some exceptions, to help create a market for farmers who desire to use non-GE seeds and to allow consumers to decide whether or not they eat GE food. Many GE crops such as those termed “Roundup Ready” are designed to be herbicide-tolerant and encourage the use of highly toxic chemicals such as glyphosate (sold under the trade name “Roundup”) that can pose risks to humans, animals and the environment. Ubiquitous Roundup use has resulted in glyphosate-resistant weeds, which drives farmers to apply more toxic herbicides and to reduce conservation tilling designed to combat soil erosion.
HB2335 – Urban Composting (Rep. Robyn Gabel) and HB3319 – Rural Composting (Rep. Brad Halbrook) Growing crops removes nutrients from the soil. Diverting food scraps from the landfill to create compost provides urban and rural farmers with a valuable soil amendment to grow crops again. These two bills will make it easier for farmers all over the state to compost. HB3319 will allow farmers in rural areas to bring materials in from their neighbors to add to their compost piles. HB2335 will make it easier for urban farmers to compost on their farms. HB2335 also includes a provision to allow municipal governments to compost at schools and community gardens.
HB3113 – On Bill Financing of Energy Efficiency Projects for Affordable Housing (Rep. Christian Mitchell) The gas and electric utilities have dedicated funds for on bill financing of energy efficiency projects. With on bill financing, homeowners can purchase and install energy efficiency projects, such as furnaces and efficient appliances, without any upfront cost, and pay it back on their electricity bill. This bill allows owners of buildings of five or more units who pay for the heat or electricity of their tenants to take part in the program. It also clarifies which energy efficiency projects are eligible for financing and attaches the loan obligation to the property, instead of the individual.
HB1522 – Protection of Clean Water (Rep. Mike Fortner)Urban counties and their municipalities are required to mitigate flooding from storm events and minimize pollution to our state waterways. However, counties do not have adequate authority to require or encourage property owners to use good practices (green infrastructure) to reduce stormwater runoff and pollution. Legislation to be reintroduced in 2013 would give the urban counties of DuPage and Peoria the tools to promote the use of green stormwater infrastructure to reduce flooding and water pollution and save tax payer dollars at the same time.
Oppose HB 1379 would allow private water utilities such as Illinois American Water and Aqua Illinois to aggressively privatize water systems in Illinois by raising water rates on existing customers (e.g. raising rates in Pekin to purchase a water system in Carbondale). Data from EPA’s 2006 Community Water Survey demonstrates that private utility companies invest less money into upgrading and maintaining water infrastructure. In Illinois, private ownership of water systems has likewise been associated with decreased water efficiency and Clean Water Act violations.