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Working for historic energy legislation in Springfield

Negotiations to pass legislation that would secure clean, affordable energy for Illinois and hold utilities accountable have been extended in Springfield, and at press time, negotiators were hopeful a strong bill could be passed this year, if not before the end of the summer.

“I want to thank the CUB supporters who have sent thousands of messages to Springfield leaders in favor of strong clean energy legislation,” CUB Executive Director David Kolata said. “We appreciate your patience—we’re closer than ever to passing a strong, pro-consumer energy bill.”

How did we get here?  

For two-and-a-half years, CUB has fought for strong clean energy legislation called the Clean Energy Jobs Act, or CEJA. The ComEd corruption scandal ramped up efforts to pass the bill. At the heart of the scandal, the company won an unfair “formula” rate-setting process that has led to hundreds of millions of dollars in rate hikes.

CEJA was one of a handful of energy bills proposed in 2021. As negotiations continued, Gov. J.B. Pritzker championed a compromise proposal that shared many provisions with the bill CUB supported.  

Why do we like the compromise proposal?

The proposal would:

  • Launch a responsible plan to fight climate change and work toward 100 percent clean energy by 2045.
  • Support low-cost clean energy and give a boost to the solar energy market. Solar has boomed in Illinois—making the state a national leader—but has sputtered after incentives from an earlier law, the Future Energy Jobs Act, ran out. Supporting clean energy creates jobs for communities that need it the most—including those abandoned by the coal industry.
  • Replace the unfair electric formula rate-setting system with one that can provide more oversight.
  • Allow state regulators to open an investigation into how to fairly compensate ComEd customers for the utility’s corruption scandal.  
  • Create an independent ethics monitor at the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) to rein in utilities.
  •  Pave the way for cleaner, more affordable electric transportation options.
  • Expand energy efficiency programs that have helped lower bills by billions of dollars.

So what’s left to do?

Various sides have reached agreement on almost all the provisions in what would be a final bill, but at press time negotiations continued over the schedule for closing fossil fuel power plants, and a bill had not been officially introduced.

Why is it important that we keep fighting?

The impact of pollution on our environment is one of the biggest threats to our well-being, and it also is terrible for our electricity bills. (Read about our research on the $10.9 billion cost of climate change.) Also, ComEd’s corruption scandal heightens the urgency to pass legislation to hold utilities accountable.

The New York Times recently reported on the potentially devastating consequences of climate change in Chicago, such as fluctuations in the water levels of Lake Michigan that could spark widespread flooding and property damage. In fact, the Chicagoland area has already seen instances of extreme weather with tornadoes touching down in Naperville and Rogers Park over the last year. Extreme weather has also picked up nationwide with an unprecedented Texas deep freeze, flooded subway stations in New York City, and record-breaking heat waves across the Pacific Northwest.

 “We have no choice but to develop an effective, nation-leading plan to combat climate change while protecting our power bills,” Kolata said. “The state and the country are counting on us to succeed, so we won’t give up.”