Agenda Tackles Clean Energy, Clean Water, Sustainable Agriculture, Wildlife Protections and More
SPRINGFIELD, IL — On behalf of their over 100 member affiliate organizations, the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) announced today Illinois’ annual environmental legislative agenda. The 2021 agenda tackles the environmental community’s priorities across a wide range of issues including clean energy, clean water, sustainable agriculture, wildlife protections and more.
“Though the legislative session got off to a bit of a slow start as leaders determined the most safe and productive way of conducting legislative business, momentum has picked up and we are thrilled to be working with our partners across the environmental movement and within the General Assembly to advance a broad and ambitious slate of environmental policies that will protect Illinois’ people, plants, animals and ecosystems,” said Colleen Smith, IEC deputy director.
Topping the list of 2021 priorities is the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA, HB804/SB1718), a bill that leads Illinois to 100% clean energy by 2050, decarbonizes our power sector, reduces pollution from the transportation sector and ensures job training and equitable clean energy development– all while lowering bills, and preventing fossil fuel bailouts. CEJA is sponsored by Rep. Ann Williams and Sen. Cristina Castro.
“CEJA addresses the needs of Environmental Justice (EJ) communities like Waukegan, IL where we can no longer afford to bear the burden of the toxic legacy of fossil fuels,” said Dulce Ortiz, Co-Chair Clean Power Lake County, an IEC affiliate organization member. “CEJA ensures that EJ communities will have economic development opportunities and access to new clean energy jobs while broadening basic human rights to clean air, clean water, and clean soil. CEJA is also the only bill that holds corporate polluters accountable. We are tired of subsidizing corporate polluters like NRG Energy, it is time they pay for their pollution and clean up their sites.”
Aside from energy, the 2021 agenda takes up several clean water initiatives, from groundwater monitoring at demolition debris sites to phasing out Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in firefighting foam. Chief among them is the Lead Service Line Replacement Act (HB3739/SB556), sponsored by Rep. Lamont Robinson and Sen. Melinda Bush, which addresses the alarming number of toxic lead service lines bringing brain-damaging, lead-contaminated drinking water into homes across the state. New Chicago Tribune analysis revealed that 8 in 10 Illinoisans live in a community where at least one home tested positive for lead-contaminated drinking water during the past six years.
“The federal government has yet to take meaningful steps to address lead in our drinking water, and it’s more critical than ever for Illinois’ legislature to step up and take bold action,” said Jeremy Orr, senior attorney, Safe Water Initiative, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), an IEC affiliate member organization. “Illinois must mandate full lead service line replacement, ban the dangerous practice of partial replacement, and establish an equitable revenue source that ensures individual homeowners and ratepayers won’t have to shoulder the burden of paying to replace these lead pipes.”
This year’s environmental legislative agenda also addresses sustainable agriculture and local food production. For example, the Partners for Nutrient Loss Reduction Act (HB1792/SB2474), sponsored by Rep. Dave Vella and Sen. Ram Villivalam, would add implementation of the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy to the state’s Partners for Conservation Fund.
“Our freshwater sources, including drinking water, are intrinsically tied to the farming practices implemented across our state,” said Catie Gregg, agricultural programs specialist at Prairie Rivers Network, an IEC affiliate member organization. “Illinois should reaffirm its dedication to protecting our natural resources from toxic, polluted agricultural runoff by securing support for our farmers working to incorporate more environmentally sustainable practices through the Soil and Water Conservation Districts and programs like the Fall Covers for Spring Savings Program.”
The Home-to-Market Act, HB2651/SB2007 sponsored by Rep. Will Guzzardi and Sen. David Koehler, expands current cottage food laws to allow direct-to-consumer sales, including sales online within Illinois.
“Last year, the pandemic delayed some farmers markets from opening, leaving cottage food businesses without a place to sell their products or earn income. At the same time, pandemic layoffs, especially in the restaurant industry, inspired new food entrepreneurs looking to earn income from their home,” said Liz Moran Stelk, executive director of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, an IEC affiliate organization member. “The Home-to-Market Act provides a no-cost hand up to small farms and businesses across the state and increases access to the local foods and unique Illinois products we all love.”
Illinois’ 2021 environmental legislative agenda does not stop there. IEC and their affiliate member organizations have united behind environmental solutions addressing the state’s waste reduction, transportation and air quality challenges as well.
“There are more environmental legislative champions in the Illinois General Assembly right now than ever before, which means the power we’re building for people and our environment continues to grow and we are very optimistic about the progress we will make during this legislative session,” Smith continued. “IEC is grateful to our amazing affiliate organizations and supporters who contributed to countless town hall events, priority setting meetings and consensus building conversations across the state to establish a robust 2021 agenda.”