• Joel Ebert
    MAR 30, 2021

    UNLOCKED

    Preckwinkle endorses Clean Energy Jobs Act: ‘the urgency...is crystal clear’

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    Preckwinkle endorses Clean Energy Jobs Act: ‘the urgency...is crystal clear 

    Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Monday threw her support behind the Clean Energy Jobs Act, urging lawmakers to take action on one of two major energy measures advancing in the state legislature. 

    Sponsored by Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago), HB 804 seeks to increase development of renewable energy sources, reduce the state’s carbon production and pollution in Illinois and create jobs. Earlier this month, the House Energy and Environment Committee approved the Clean Energy Jobs Act, sending it the House floor.  

    Speaking a news conference while joined by Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-Chicago), Cook County Comm. Bridget Degnan (12), Scott Onque, the policy and advocacy director for Faith in Place, and Eco-Energy Solutions owner Ramon Hayes, Preckwinkle said communities of color are “continually hit the hardest” by the effects of climate change.  

    “The urgency to address climate change is crystal clear,” she said. “That’s why I’m proud to support the Illinois Clean Energy Jobs Act.” 

    Preckwinkle said the legislation would help create jobs and ensure a “just transition” to a new “clean economy.” 

    Noting how residents in low-income communities have “borne the brunt of pollution” while being disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, she said the Clean Energy Jobs Act will improve air quality while helping residents people get back to work, earning living wages.   

    Additionally, Preckwinkle said the energy legislation would bolster the state’s financial commitments to the solar industry while making government contracts more equitable, providing new opportunities to minority- and women-owned businesses.  

    She said her administration has kept a similar focus on equity, noting the county had spent $463 million on contracts with minority- and women-owned businesses since 2016.  

    Preckwinkle also argued the legislation would help Cook County reach its clean energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals.  

    Under its Clean Energy Plan, the county plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030, with a broader goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. The county has also pledged to have all its facilities switch to 100 percent clean energy by 2030.  

    Given the various components of the legislation, Preckwinkle said the Clean Energy Jobs Act aligned with the goals of her administration.  

    “I urge the Illinois legislature to pass this important bill for the future of Cook County and the state,” she said.  

    Legislator says proposal ‘can’t wait’ 

    Ramirez, who serves as House assistant majority leader, said she supported the legislation in part because of the inclusion of certain affordable housing provisions. She said HB 804 would ensure affordable housing residents have access to “programs that help make their homes safer and more efficient.”  

    Those include expanding a gas efficiency program for affordable housing that will help insulate buildings and replace old equipment, including furnaces, which Ramirez said would save customers millions of dollars.  

    Ramirez also noted the Clean Energy Jobs Act seeks to “hold utility companies accountable” by ending formula rate increases, which she said place a burden on consumers and businesses.  

    The Clean Energy Jobs Act “can’t wait,” Ramirez said, noting the issue has been a top priority for several years. “This pandemic has demonstrated to us that unless we prioritize this, we’re actually putting every one of us at risk, especially our communities of color,” Ramirez said, noting she is one of 43 co-sponsors of the House bill.  

    The bill’s co-sponsors also include House Speaker Chris Welch (D-Hillside).  

    Degnen, who last week introduced a resolution (21-2116) that was unanimously approved by Cook County commissioners urging lawmakers to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act, said the legislation was “vitally important.” 

    She said the measure would reduce the state’s carbon footprint while ensuring access to clean energy and jobs. “It’s past time for government pass this regulatory framework,” said Degnen, who had previously endorsed the legislation.  

    Related: Energy bills headed to House floor 

    Other energy legislation pending 

    In addition to the Clean Energy Jobs Act, the House Energy and Environment Committee also approved a competing energy bill, HB 2640. Commonly known as the Path to 100 Act, the measure seeks to increase limits on energy bills to help fund renewable energy projects. Both bills are awaiting action by the full House, which is set to return from recess April 13. Unlike the Clean Energy Jobs Act, the Path to 100 Act has three House sponsors.  

    The Senate versions of both bills are awaiting action by the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee, which is set to meet Tuesday morning to hold a subject matter hearing on SB 529, a separate energy proposal sponsored by Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park). 

    On Monday, Hastings’ office sent out a news release that said his legislation would “put hundreds of thousands of union laborers to work building a 100 percent clean energy economy in Illinois.” 

    Unlike the Path to 100 Act and the Clean Energy Jobs Act, Hastings’ bill has some bipartisan support, with Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris), along with Rep. Marcus Evans (D-Chicago), Rep. Lawrence Walsh Jr. (D-Elwood) and Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville), co-sponsoring the measure.  

    “We have outlined how Illinois can move forward with working people building our state’s clean energy future. We should turn this plan into action to solve some of our state’s biggest challenges today,” said Hastings, who is running to be the Democratic nominee for Secretary of State in 2022.  

    Among other changes, the legislation, known as the Climate Union Jobs Act, would bolster the state’s Energy Assistance Act, which provides financial relief to low-income residents, by $31 million per year. It would also expand ratepayers’ eligibility for a payment plan that limits energy bills based on residents’ income. The bill would also expand subsidies to certain electricity sources, including some nuclear plants in Illinois.  

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