Over 500 gather to support the Clean Energy Jobs Act, protecting communities from coal ash and opposing ratepayer-funded bailouts
SPRINGFIELD, IL — Today, hundreds of community leaders, environmental and renewable energy advocates, faith leaders, business representatives, consumer groups and students from around Illinois gathered at the Illinois State Capitol for Clean Energy Lobby Day. Participants met with their state representatives to advocate on behalf of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA, SB2132/HB3624) and protections against toxic dirty energy practices.
“Clean Energy Lobby Day is our annual opportunity to show lawmakers that their constituents are invested in clean energy and protecting the environment and that they are ready to hold them accountable for their votes on these issues,” said Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council.
Many state legislators joined the crowd of over 500 to call for passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which, in addition to getting Illinois to 100% renewable energy by 2050, will also create a carbon free grid by 2030, clean the transportation sector significantly, keep a lid on energy bills, and generate jobs and economic opportunity throughout Illinois.
“I’m fighting to ensure that the people of Illinois—from one end of the state to the other—have the opportunity to benefit from Illinois’ clean energy economy,” said State Sen. Cristina Castro, chief sponsor of CEJA. “The Clean Energy Jobs Act offers a comprehensive plan to make a low-cost, prosperous clean energy future a reality.”
The Clean Energy Jobs Act will result in more than 40 million solar panels and 2,500 wind turbines—enough to power 4 million homes—being built in Illinois by 2030, generating more than $30 billion in new infrastructure. It also would broaden energy efficiency standards and implement electricity market reforms to spark savings for consumers while greatly expanding renewable energy investment in the state.
“I am proudly sponsoring the Clean Energy Jobs Act because Illinois is at a crossroads, and the question before the General Assembly is not whether a clean energy future is necessary, but rather, whether or not Illinois will be left behind in building it. CEJA answers that question by ensuring that Illinois take the lead in creating a clean, safe and flourishing energy future for all Illinoisans,” said CEJA chief house sponsor State Rep. Ann Williams.
To help achieve equity in the clean energy economy, the CEJA calls for the creation of Clean Jobs Workforce Hubs, a network of frontline organizations that would provide support for minority and disadvantaged communities. The bill also gives preferences to companies that ensure equitable representation in Illinois’ clean energy workforce.
“Illinois passed the Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016, the greatest clean energy milestone in the state’s history, which is creating thousands of jobs in every part of Illinois, saving consumers money on their bills and combating the threat of climate change,” said Noel Sanchez, maintenance professional and active union member of SEIU Local 1. “But, if we stop there, other states will quickly figure out how to lure these safe, quality jobs out from under us, and we simply cannot afford to let that happen.”
Lobby day attendees also advocated for Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Sen. Scott Bennett, which would protect communities from coal ash, a toxic byproduct of burning coal found buried in nearly 80 pits throughout Illinois.
“CEJA will help communities impacted by the decline of coal with a share of the benefits and an equitable path towards a clean energy transition,’ said Dulce Ortiz, co-chair of Clean Power Lake County. “However, as we move away from dirty fuel sources and toward clean power, we cannot afford to forget the legacy of dangerous pollution left over from our old way of doing things. It was powerful to see so many Illinoisans energized today about eliminating toxic coal ash pits that pose a serious threat to communities around the state who are ready to transition to a clean energy future.”
With the burning of coal comes another issue–toxic coal ash that threatens groundwater throughout our state.
Illinois has more coal ash dump sites than any other state in the nation. Toxic coal ash pollutants have been found leaking into groundwater at every tested ash dump site in the state.
“In my community of Vermillion, we have seen first-hand the devastation from toxic coal ash,” said SB 9 sponsor Sen. Scott Bennett. “That’s why my bill ensures strong protections are put in place for every community in Illinois so that they aren’t left dealing with this problem long after companies are gone.”
A number of other energy bills have been introduced this session. The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition is urging lawmakers not to pass any energy legislation until they pass the core tenets in CEJA.
“Today people from all walks of life made it clear that we have a moral imperative to act immediately on climate change. We cannot continue to imperil our planet for future generations, sacrificing their health and safety for our short-term gains. It is time to do right by our people and our planet,” said Pastor Kevin James of the United Congregations of Metro East.