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CEJA sponsors reintroduce bill, pledge to pass legislation by May

Members of the Illinois General Assembly and the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition today reintroduced a stronger Clean Energy Jobs Act, with a pledge from bill sponsors to pass the comprehensive energy legislation in the General Assembly by May 2021.

“The days of ComEd, Exelon, Ameren, and big fossil fuel companies meeting in a backroom to decide energy policy are over,” State Rep. Ann Williams said at the news conference held Tuesday morning. “We need to put the people of Illinois first, not utility company profits, and that’s what CEJA does.”

The Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) is the only bill in Springfield that moves Illinois to 100 percent clean energy by 2050, creates thousands of much-needed equitable jobs and holds utilities accountable without raising taxes, hiking electric bills, or giving bailouts to corrupt utility companies. (Sign our petition and tell your legislators we need CEJA now!)

Supporters say the need for comprehensive, consumer-friendly energy legislation is urgent in the face of powerful polluters and the growing impact of climate change.

Guadalupe Bueno didn’t have a choice to become a climate activist. Her hometown, Waukegan, is home to a coal plant and numerous superfund sites. In a video played at the news conference, Bueno said CEJA can’t wait, especially in communities like her own, left in the lurch when coal companies cut and run, leaving joblessness, contaminated work sites and property tax revenue deficits in their wake. 

But as CEJA’s House sponsor Williams points out, Illinois is up against three other major crises at the moment: COVID, social and economic injustice and corruption. 

While CEJA isn’t an answer to the state’s every woe, the bill does include provisions that will help Illinois communities recover from the pandemic, which has left many unemployed and struggling to afford their utility bills. This is especially true among Black and Latinx communities, which have been hit disproportionally hard by the pandemic.

“Our communities have borne the brunt of the health problems associated with pollution, and we have taken a huge toll in death and joblessness from COVID-19. CEJA is a key component to economic recovery and building back better,” said State Rep. Kam Buckner, House chair of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus.

“We don’t just want electric vehicle charging stations, rooftop and community solar, and energy efficiency projects completed in Black neighborhoods and communities. We want Black workers installing them, and we want Black-owned businesses designing the projects and getting them built,” said State Sen. Robert Peters, Senate chair of the Illinois legislative Black Caucus. “CEJA is the only comprehensive energy bill that delivers on that promise.”

CUB supports the bill because it protects utility bills by expanding energy efficiency programs and implementing electricity market reforms. CEJA also is the only bill that calls for fair compensation for ComEd customers after federal prosecutors caught Illinois’ largest electric utility in a bribery scandal to pass legislation that led to a new system of setting rates and opened the door to multiple increases.  CEJA would replace that system, called formula rates, with one that is more fair for consumers and better protects them from unfair rate hikes.  

The bill also would establish an independent ethics monitor for all public utilities and prohibit the use of customer funds to cover expenses tied to federal ethics investigations.