A mysterious dark money group has reportedly spent more than $250,000 on social media and TV advertising designed to hurt efforts to pass strong clean energy legislation in Illinois, according to research by Capitol Fax and the Clean Jobs Coalition, of which CUB is a member.
The shadowy group deceptively calls itself the Clean Energy Transition Project, but as Midwest Energy News reported it doesn’t propose any legitimate clean energy policies. The group doesn’t appear to have any grassroots membership and its main strategy seems to be to manipulate legitimate consumer anger over the ComEd scandal to try to kill pro-consumer legislation like the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA).
Lacie Newton, a representative of the Clean Energy Transition Project, declined an interview with Midwest Energy News. But CEJA supporters told the publication that Newton’s group is merely a front for the fossil fuel industry.
“They are definitely co-opting the messages of climate and clean energy,” said Illinois Environmental Council Executive Director Jen Walling. “They’re putting out negative and false information about our legislation.”
The fossil fuel industry hates the Clean Energy Jobs Act, because it would be bad for their bottom line. The bill, which aims to secure 100 percent clean energy for Illinois by 2050, would expand energy efficiency programs that have already saved consumers billions of dollars. It also would implement energy market reforms that would protect ComEd customers from paying for a dirty energy bailout engineered by pro-coal forces on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Also, the bill contains strong utility accountability provisions that would give restitution to ComEd customers in the wake of the company’s bribery scandal and would eliminate the formula rates that are at the center of the controversy. The company has paid a $200 million federal fine after admitting to using bribery to pass legislation that dismantled consumer protections against unfair rate hikes.
In addition to those pro-consumer provisions, CUB supports the legislation because it would draw billions of dollars in clean energy investment and jobs and represents the cheapest, fastest way for Illinois to get to 100 percent clean energy without raising power bills, hiking taxes or giving a bailout to big energy companies.
State Rep. Ann Williams, a co-sponsor of CEJA, has sent a letter asking Newton to reveal the group’s funding and partnerships. Referring to a scandal in Ohio (the CUB there has been a voice for customers to get compensation), Rep. Williams, the chair of the Illinois House Energy & Environment committee, wrote: “We’ve watched the recent scandal play out in Ohio, where utilities and fossil fuel companies like First Energy and Murray Energy were found to be funneling money through shadowy front groups that look and operate a lot like yours. I certainly hope the Clean Energy Transition Project is not yet another conduit for dark money from dirty coal and gas companies or their allies to influence the legislative process anonymously.”
When we fight for pro-consumer legislation, we expect to make enemies. This mysterious group is just a reminder of the fight we have on our hands to pass CEJA in 2021. Send a message to our state leaders in favor of CEJA.