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Update from Springfield: Negotiations for strong clean energy bill at an impasse

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In the first week of August, there were major developments at the State Capitol in the fight for a pro-consumer clean energy bill. Fossil fuel interests have stalled a proposal favored by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, of which CUB is a member. A major sticking point is that the fossil fuel supporters want dirty coal power plants to stay open indefinitely.

“As I have made clear, the time for climate action is now. Comprehensive, clean, equitable, and ethical energy reform is what the people of this state need and deserve, and the clock is ticking,” Gov. Pritzker wrote in a response to a labor coalition, Climate Jobs Illinois, that announced negotiations with environmental and consumer advocates were at an impasse.

“The cost of doing nothing is colossal,” the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition added in a letter to legislators. “Big utility companies will remain unchecked, raising rates and racking up profits while consumers foot the bill….The potential for alignment still exists, but it cannot be achieved by putting the interests of large, multi-billion dollar fossil fuel interests first or shutting out communities of color from a clean energy economy.”

CUB is working for a strong, pro-consumer energy bill that would:

  • Launch a responsible plan to fight climate change and work toward 100 percent clean energy by 2045. (This is an urgent need for our planet and our bottom lines. A CUB study found that unchecked climate change could lead to $10.9 billion in higher electric bills over the next 30 years.)
  • 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. In fact, if Illinois doesn’t pass a bill by the end of August, more than $300 million in money collected from power utility customers to support solar power must be returned. 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.  (CUB is fighting in federal court for a refund, but we need to fight this battle on multiple fronts.)
  • Create an independent ethics monitor at the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) to rein in utilities. Also, require utilities to have an ethics compliance officer at their headquarters.
  • Pave the way for cleaner, more affordable electric transportation options.
  • Expand energy efficiency programs that have already helped lower energy bills by billions of dollars.

Meanwhile, in late July, Exelon, the parent company of ComEd, announced it would close two nuclear power plants if it didn’t get state support that’s in the governor’s proposal.

“We will continue to work for pro-consumer legislation that is a net win for consumers–that in the long run is good for consumers’ power bills because it expands energy efficiency, fights the expensive consequences of climate change, supports low-cost clean energy and holds utilities accountable,” CUB Communications Director Jim Chilsen said.

Urge your legislators to pass strong, pro-consumer clean energy legislation.