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“I’m tired of meetings. I want action.”: Virtual Lobby Day urges action on CEJA

More than 800 consumers from across the state gathered on Zoom today for a virtual lobby day in support of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), comprehensive energy legislation currently before the Illinois General Assembly. 

During lobby days past, consumer and environmental advocates met up at the state capitol in Springfield to press their legislators to support CEJA. However, amid the pandemic, lobby day looked a little different this time around.

Instead of loading on buses headed to Springfield, constituents like CUB’s Christina Uzzo were able to meet with state legislators via Zoom to urge them to support the clean energy bill. Sixty-seven meetings were scheduled with legislators for today, and four more will take place next week. 

Christina met with State Senator Ram Villivalam, a co-sponsor of the bill.

“It’s been two years since CEJA was first introduced, so it can be easy to get discouraged, but after speaking with legislators today, I feel hopeful,” she said. “It’s amazing to see different pieces of the puzzle, like consumer advocates, environmentalists, and unions, coming together to help move Illinois to clean, affordable energy.”

At noon, over 400 people from across the state jumped on another Zoom call to participate in a virtual clean energy rally. More watched a stream of the event on Facebook Live. 

Consumer and environmental advocates took the mic during the rally. 

  • Tonyisha Harris, a youth climate activist, said that the future of the planet rests in the hands of legislators. And if climate change weren’t reason enough, she emphasized the stress that the COVID-19 pandemic has put on consumers.

“Illinoisans need jobs and lower electricity bills now more than ever,” she said.

  • SIUE student Tylor Dove remembers growing up with flooded roads, and having days off of school to help the community sandbag to prevent the levees from breaking in his Missouri hometown, just across the Mississippi River from Alton, Illinois. 

Dove said climate change has “economically crippled” towns. “Who would want to start a business in a place where flooding is just getting worse?”

  • Businesses also left Mary Ellen DeClue’s town in central Illinois, which was at one point surrounded by coal operations. 

“There wasn’t a just transition in place for us when fossil fuel interests decided to pull up stakes and move on,” DeClue said. “For over 15 years, I have attended many meetings related to coal and utilities. I’m tired of meetings. I want action.”

The speakers unanimously agreed: The Clean Energy Jobs Act addresses their concerns. 

The bill would boost energy efficiency standards and take advantage of the falling cost of wind and solar power. The bill would also protect the state from a federal regulatory ruling that could hit most Illinois consumers with up to $1.7 billion in higher power bills over the next decade while providing assistance to former coal workers and communities impacted by fossil fuels.

The need for climate action? Check. A fair and just transition away from dirty energy? Check. Job growth grounded in racial and economic justice? Check. Consumer protections and utility accountability? Check.

During the rally, participants flashed their homemade signs, touting phrases like “Pass CEJA Now,” “Waukegan Loves Clean Air” and “Something Good in 2020: CEJA!”

Leading up to Lobby Day, many of these consumers participated in a week of action. They called Gov. J.B. Pritzker and legislative leaders, signed petitions and encouraged friends to support the bill. 

If you missed out on the CEJA rally, you can still take action:

  1. Watch a recording of the rally.
  2. Call Governor Pritzker and tell him that CEJA can’t wait.
  3. While you’re on the phone, give your legislative leaders a call