Illinois

Greenwire: Midwest law center can compromise but doesn’t fear a fight

Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, February 27, 2015

Ask Chicago environmentalists who’s the Windy City’s best lawyer, and they’re likely to name Howard Learner.

Learner has built his Environmental Law and Policy Center into a Midwest powerhouse over the last 20 years on transportation and clean energy issues, scoring victories in courtrooms and state legislatures along the way.

His shop eschews the national spotlight for a hyper-regional focus that he says is part of the group’s DNA.

“First of all, we are Midwesterners,” he said. “The Midwest is probably the most important region in the most important country in the world.”

ELPC is among a few regional environmental law centers that operate in the gap between national Goliaths like the Natural Resources Defense Council and small grass-roots organizations. The center takes on major litigation — fighting lawsuits brought by former Chesapeake Energy Corp. CEO Aubrey McClendon, arguing for solar and wind energy in state Supreme Courts, and battling Great Lakes pollution. Moreover, it has developed a lobbying operation that pressures government officials — from U.S. senators to mayors — to support environmentally progressive policies.

Learner prides himself on leading a “grass-tops” organization, meaning it seeks to unite leaders from often-opposing camps — such as unions and local chambers of commerce — to push for common goals.

Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but ELPC is now thriving, thanks largely to Learner’s grasp of regional politics.

“He has steered clear of the weird political fights,” said J. Paul Forrester, an energy and agricultural specialist at Mayer Brown in Chicago. “He has a lot of political acumen. I give him a lot of credit for that. That’s helped him avoid ugly confrontation.”

Learner, 59, lives a mile-and-a-half from where he was born in Chicago. The son of a University of Wisconsin football player, he’s well over 6 feet tall and bearded. He cuts an imposing presence that he establishes right away with a firm handshake.

Growing up as an outdoorsman, Learner biked across Wisconsin several times and always had a backpack ready for weekend trips. He attended the University of Michigan and remains a devoted fan of the Wolverine football team, then headed to Harvard Law School.

He returned to Chicago with his law degree and worked for a public interest law firm that specialized in housing cases. Learner launched the group’s environmental practice and specialized in pro bono work.

In 1991, seven major foundations pooled funds and asked several local lawyers for proposals for a regional-based legal center to address environmental programs in the Midwest. Such a group didn’t exist, and, as Learner recalled, there were ample reasons the region needed one.

The Great Lakes contain nearly a fifth of the world’s freshwater supply and provide drinking water to more than 40 million people. At the time, electricity utilities were becoming more regionally focused, building power lines across state borders. The Midwest was also home to some of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants. Three-quarters of the pollution in the Great Lakes was coming from the energy and transportation sectors.

The region also served as the nexus of multiple types of transportation; interstate highways crisscross the area, as do major railways. And Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport serves as a hub of air travel in the region.

“If you are serious about solving our climate change problems, and you’re serious about keeping the Great Lakes clean,” Learner said, “you need to deal with the energy and transportation sectors on a regional basis.”

Learner applied for the funding, basing his proposal in part on other regional outfits like the Conservation Law Foundation in New England, the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund on the West Coast, which has since become Earthjustice.

The foundations backed Learner, guaranteeing $850,000 per year for three years. He left his practice, rented a storefront and started assembling furniture.

At the core of the group’s philosophy from the start, Learner said, was devising “pragmatic solutions” that paired environmental benefits with economic growth and job creation. Now such proposals are increasingly common among environmental groups, but at the time they weren’t.

Learner pledged that whenever his group came out against a project or proposal, it would say yes to a less harmful alternative.

“We said from the beginning we weren’t going to get boxed in as naysayers,” he said.

ELPC now has an annual budget of more than $6.5 million and about 50 employees in eight offices throughout the Midwest. It divides its efforts into two groups. Its strategic advocacy arm lobbies and files lawsuits to fight what it views as environmentally harmful policies. And second, it brings parties together to come up with “eco-business” deals and proposals, such as working with labor unions, local chambers of commerce and officials to facilitate solar and wind energy development in the Midwest, or a regional high-speed rail network.

Those efforts have yielded results. Iowa is the second-largest wind energy producer in the country, and Illinois, Minnesota and Kansas all rank within the top 10. And plans for a regional high-speed rail proposal to serve 60 million people in eight states are starting to jell. The St. Louis-to-Chicago-to-Detroit line is being built, and sections already run at 110 mph. The effort has garnered the support of the Obama administration, which committed $13 billion in the 2009 stimulus package.

Looking for opportunity

ELPC’s success is due in large part to Learner’s relentlessness.

Jerry Adelmann, president of the Chicago-based Openlands conservation group, said it typically takes Learner “two seconds” to respond to an email.

“He lives and breathes this stuff,” Adelmann said. “It’s part of his very being.”

To his foes — which are typically entrenched energy utilities — Learner can come off as a zealot. But he has overcome such criticism through political adeptness, which is unusual for someone who wears his Democratic-leaning politics on his sleeve.

Learner was Illinois delegate at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and has served on political committees that others in the nongovernmental organization community would likely shy away from out of fear of reprisals from the other side.

“Howard is out front in terms of his politics,” Adelmann said.

Learner seems to dodge most blowback, though, largely because of his instincts.

“I think Howard is one of those visionary leaders,” said Josh Mandelbaum, an attorney in ELPC’s Des Moines, Iowa, office. “His mind is always spinning, and he sort of sees the direction that things are moving. He is constantly trying to anticipate what opportunities will present themselves and constantly trying to take advantage of them in a strategic way.”

That doesn’t mean ELPC doesn’t have critics.

Todd Maisch, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, said it’s possible to have a “reasonable conversation” with ELPC. But he stressed that the group often presses for more stringent environmental controls than his members can support.

“Bottom line is, we think a big part of their agenda results in very little environmental improvement but huge costs,” Maisch said.

He added that ELPC’s coalition building is often less successful than the group says.

“Their attempts,” he said, “to bring people together to build a consensus — a lot more of those fail than succeed.”

Battling energy tycoon

Learner and ELPC can nevertheless point to significant achievements, both on the large and small scale.

ELPC was part of a coalition that pushed for the closure of two old power plants in 2012 on Chicago’s South Side, the city’s last two coal-fired facilities. Before that, it fought to ensure that wastewater was treated before utilities discharged it into the Chicago River.

And last summer, ELPC lawyers secured an Iowa Supreme Court victory in challenging an Iowa Utilities Board decision that created an unfavorable and expensive environment for solar energy development in the state.

There is also a strong “defender of the little guy” thread to their work. Perhaps no case illustrates that better than ELPC’s work for a small community in Saugatuck, Mich., against former Chesapeake CEO McClendon.

An artsy Lake Michigan resort town with fewer than 1,000 year-round residents, Saugatuck is a 2½-hour drive from Chicago. In summer, tourists visit the town’s art galleries, shops and renowned beach dunes. The community has sought to protect those attractions from development by passing strict zoning laws.

Those efforts were threatened, however, in 2007, when McClendon bought 412 acres at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River that the town had been trying to make part of the public domain and conserve for 50 years.

McClendon wanted to build a gated community and resort on the land, with a nine-hole golf course, hotel, mansions and condos. Within 30 days of purchasing the property, he filed a series of lawsuits challenging Saugatuck’s zoning laws.

Overwhelmed, David Swan and the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance turned to Learner for help.

ELPC took the cases, and Swan said the group’s attorneys became part of the community. They also provided communications and marketing support to Swan and his allies.

They were able to halt McClendon’s development. In November 2011, a federal district court judge threw out a settlement between McClendon and the Saugatuck Township Board that would have essentially removed zoning provisions from the property. The judge ruled that the settlement would have illegally prevented the board from ever updating its zoning laws for the property.

Further, the court held that any future such settlement would require a hearing to ensure it benefits the “public good.”

There remains some ongoing litigation, but the community has since bought back half the land McClendon purchased. And, Swan said, nothing has been built on McClendon’s land.

Swan credits ELPC with saving the dunes — and his community.

“It just kind of amazed me,” Swan said. “Here was a really brilliant attorney, who is really busy with huge projects, and he doesn’t let small projects like trying to save 400 acres of pristine duneland fall by the wayside.”

Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition Statement on Energy Legislation Introduced Feb. 26

“There is only one comprehensive energy bill that costs less to consumers, promotes a cleaner environment and will create tens of thousands of new jobs in every part of Illinois — that’s the Illinois Clean Jobs bill. Introduced by Sen. Don Harmon and Rep. Elaine Nekritz with bipartisan support, when fully implemented the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill will create 32,000 new clean energy jobs per year by growing renewable energy and raising energy efficiency while giving Illinois a greater set of tools to help consumers, including the option of market-based strategies to reduce carbon pollution.

“The Illinois Clean Jobs Bill sets a long-term clean energy policy that creates jobs — rather than sunsetting soon, missing opportunities to create jobs and raising the risk that consumers will again be asked to pay more in just a few short years.

“We look forward to reading Exelon’s proposed bill more closely. But mostly, we look forward to discussing this issue in the months ahead, and we will continue to urge lawmakers to join their colleagues from both parties who have sponsored the bipartisan Illinois Clean Jobs Bill to enhance our environment and to create 32,000 new jobs per year.”

The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition is made up of Illinois businesses and organizations representing the state’s environmental, business and faith communities. Currently, more than 40 businesses and 28 organizations have formally joined the coalition to promote steps to improve the Illinois environment, help consumers, improve public health, and create tens of thousands of new jobs across the state.

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Electric Vehicles at the Chicago Auto Show: This is Only the Beginning

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As the Chicago Auto Show wraps up, electric vehicles continue to gain traction among both consumers and automakers as sensible, affordable and fun alternatives to traditional cars. Here are some industry highlights heading into the next year of EV sales in the Midwest and nationally:

  • The Chicago Auto Show is the world’s largest auto show and this year features 10 EVs – including the very popular Nissan Leaf, which is “normalizing” EV ownership; the next generation of the Chevy Volt, which features more range (50 miles) and a sportier look; the brand new BMW i3, which is bringing regenerative breaking to a whole new level; the super-high-end Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid, which looks like the Batmobile; and many others. Very cool.
  • General Motors kicked off the Chicago Auto Show with big news – Production will begin soon on its new, all-electric Chevy Bolt (not to be confused with the hybrid-electric Volt). The Bolt promises a 200-mile range at a $30,000 price tag (after rebates), which many predict will be a winning combination. (It’s already a win for Orion Township, Mich., where the cars will be manufactured.) Stay tuned.
  • “Electrification” is clearly one of the tools that automakers are using to meet new CAFÉ standards, which require average fuel efficiency of 54.5 mpg by 2025 – more than twice the standard for 2010. Along with smaller engines, lighter materials and better aerodynamics, all-electric and hybrid-electric models are bringing us the next generation of clean cars.

EV sales have been a small slice of the overall car-buying pie. But let’s not forget that the now-ubiquitous Toyota Prius sold only 5,600 units in its first 12 months of production; in comparison, Chevy sold 7,600 Volts and Tesla sold 11,350 of its Model S during their first 12 months of production. Now we have more educated buyers, and the technology is constantly improving. This is only the beginning, folks.

Please check out ELPC’s www.PlugInChicagoMetro.org for the latest news, trends and tips on EVs around the Midwest and nationally.

Progress Illinois: Groups Allowed To Expand Coal Ash Lawsuit Against NRG Energy

The Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) has allowed a lawsuit against NRG Energy over groundwater issues to be expanded in light of newly-discovered coal ash ponds near the company’s active coal-fired power plants in Illinois.

Coal ash is a toxic byproduct of electricity generation discharged from coal-fired power plants.

The IPCB’s ruling issued Thursday means the complaint filed by citizen and environmental groups — which alleges NRG’s Waukegan, Joliet, Romeoville and Pekin coal plants are “causing or contributing to violations of public health protections for groundwater” due to their associated coal ash repositories — can be amended to include additional coal ash dumps that have recently been identified.

“As more documents were uncovered in litigation, attorneys representing the citizens’ groups discovered old ash dumps where Midwest Generation – the previous owners of NRG’s coal fleet – has disposed of or stored coal ash waste,” reads a news release from the groups behind the lawsuit, including the Sierra Club, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Prairie Rivers Network and Citizens Against Ruining the Environment. “These previously undisclosed ash dumps are suspected of contributing to significant groundwater pollution at all of NRG’s coal plant sites in Illinois.”

The lawsuit in question was initially filed shortly after the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency issued violation notices in 2012 for high levels of harmful chemicals found in groundwater near the Waukegan, Joliet, Romeoville and Pekin plants.

Since taking over Midwest Generation’s plants last April, NRG has thus far “made no long-term commitment to the communities to ensure full remediation of these sites,” according to the organizations.

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“New” Coal Ash Sites Likely to be Added to Groundwater Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feburary 20,2015

Undisclosed Coal Ash Waste Sites Exposed at NRG Coal Plants in Illinois

Illinois Pollution Control Board Allows Expanded Lawsuit on Groundwater Violations from NRG Coal Ash Waste to Proceed

CHICAGO — Yesterday, the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) weighed in to protect Illinois from previously unrevealed coal ash dumps near NRG Energy’s Illinois coal plants that threaten the state’s water resources. The IPCB ruled in favor of a request from the Sierra Club, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Prairie Rivers Network and Citizens Against Ruining the Environment to expand the groups’ existing groundwater lawsuit against NRG Energy to include newly discovered coal ash storage, disposal and fill sites at each of NRG’s active coal-fired power plants in Illinois.

As more documents were uncovered in litigation, attorneys representing the citizens’ groups discovered old ash dumps where Midwest Generation – the previous owners of NRG’s coal fleet – has disposed of or stored coal ash waste. These previously undisclosed ash dumps are suspected of contributing to significant groundwater pollution at all of NRG’s coal plant sites in Illinois.

“Today’s decision by the Illinois Pollution Control Board to allow an expanded lawsuit and investigation into NRG’s coal ash disposal methods brings us one step closer to making sure local communities and bodies of water around these plants are adequately protected,” said Holly Bender, an attorney with the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign. “While NRG asserts that it is building the utility of the future, it is still operating dirty coal plants across Illinois that are discharging toxic waste like a utility of the past. Real commitment to change is needed and we have no time to spare as Illinois’ rivers and lakes are at risk.”

In 2012, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) issued notices of violation for high levels of dangerous pollutants in the groundwater at coal ash ponds at coal plants in Waukegan, Joliet, Romeoville and Pekin. Shortly thereafter, citizen groups filed a lawsuit against Midwest Generation for these repeated violations of water pollution laws. NRG, which subsequently purchased the Midwest Generation and all of its coal plants (on date), thus far has made no long-term commitment to the communities to ensure full remediation of these sites.

“We saw the need for citizen groups to bring a lawsuit because any deal between the IEPA and Midwest Generation might not go far enough to protect the public and the groundwater,” said Jennifer Cassel, staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Our discovery of these unlined coal ash dumps, which were not part of IEPA’s violation notices, just goes to show why citizen oversight is needed.”

Coal ash, the toxic by-product that is left over after coal is burned, contains toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and selenium. The public health hazards and environmental threats to nearby communities from unsafe coal ash storage have been documented for decades. These include increased risk of cancer, learning disabilities, neurological disorders, birth defects, asthma, and other illnesses.

Northwest Times of Indiana: Illiana Expressway still suck in park

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget released Wednesday includes a “placeholder” for the Illiana Expressway, but the Illinois portion of the bi-state project remains under review per the executive order the governor issued last month.

Rauner’s Capital Budget is tilted toward badly needed repairs and maintenance. But a Capital Projects List released with the budget contains $8.8 million for Illiana Expressway consultant costs this year and $5 million more for closing a deal with private investors.

There was speculation Rauner’s budget might either kill or wave through the Illiana Expressway project. But that didn’t happen, with Rauner budget chief Tim Nuding on Wednesday confirming both the Illiana Expressway and South Surburban Airport projects remain on hold pending administrative review.

Illiana Expressway opponents continued their efforts Wednesday to persuade Rauner to call off the expressway project for good. They delivered petitions to his office manager at the Thompson Center just before the governor’s budget address with 12,856 signatures asking him to end the project.

“It does tie into the budget,” said Virginia Hamann, of the group No Illiana 4 Us. “It’s a good way right off the bat to tell him a way to save a lot of money for the state of Illinois.”

The signatures were collected by a broad coalition of groups opposed to the expressway, including Sierra Club, Openlands, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Active Transportation Alliance and Illinois PIRG.

The petitions submitted included one with more than 300 signatures of residents of Indiana, Hamann said.

The Illiana Expressway would run from Interstate 65, near Lowell, to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill. About 10 miles would be built in Indiana and about 40 in Illinois. It has a projected total cost of $1.5 billion.

The Indiana Department of Transportation last week formally suspended its work on developing the Illiana Expressway, pending a decision by Gov. Rauner on whether to proceed with the project.

Lee Enterprises Springfield Bureau Chief Kurt Erickson contributed to this story.

Progress Illinois: Will County Residents Deliver Petitions Against Illiana Tollway

Will County residents delivered close to 13,000 petitions to state offices on Wednesday calling on Gov. Bruce Rauner to drop plans for the Illiana Tollway.

Those against the proposed expressway call it a boondoggle that will cost taxpayers money and farmland, while adversely affecting those who live near the designated area for the would-be tollway.

“When this process began we worried that we were alone, but the overwhelming response to this petition drive from taxpayers across the state lets me know that we have a chance to stop this boondoggle before it goes any further,” said Virginia Hamann, who lives close to the proposed expressway and spearheads the organization No Illiana 4 Us.

Hamann’s group rounded up some 4,500 petition signatures, while other organizations including Sierra Club, Openlands, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Active Transportation Alliance and Illinois PIRG collected thousands more, amounting to a collective total of 12,856 signatures from all the participating parties.

The proposed tollway is expected to cost $1.1 billion, according to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Last month, Rauner issued an executive order putting a stop to progress on the public-private partnership until a cost-benefit analysis is done on the proposed 47-mile tollway, which would connect Illinois’ I-55 to Indiana’s I-65.

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Midwest Energy News: Illinois legislators introduce groundbreaking clean energy bill

Illinois legislators are introducing a sweeping bill today that would “fix” the state’s troubled Renewable Portfolio Standard, create ambitious goals and policies for energy efficiency and solar energy and, backers say, create 32,000 clean-energy jobs per year.

The bill is being sponsored by state Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and state Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook). It realizes the stated goals of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, a group of 26 organizations and 33 businesses that launched earlier this month (and includes members of RE-AMP, which publishes Midwest Energy News).

The bill extends and ramps up the state’s renewable standard by requiring 35 percent of energy consumed in Illinois to be generated by clean renewable sources by 2030. The current standard calls for 25 percent by 2025, and experts were worried the state would not meet these goals because of problems with how the standard is currently structured.

The bill allows the Illinois Power Agency, which procures electricity on behalf of utilities ComEd and Ameren, to develop a long-term plan to procure renewables. This would avoid the problems currently plaguing the standard, wherein it is nearly impossible for wind and solar developers to be certain of a long-term commitment to purchase their power.

And as many utilities nationwide are trying to limit the growth of distributed solar generation, the bill includes a carve-out for distributed solar that would guarantee such solar installations are supported by utilities. The bill supports individual rooftop solar installations and community solar projects which people can invest in if they don’t have rooftop access. The bill also encourages utility-scale solar farms built on brownfields.

The bill also includes a “robust” solar program for low-income communities, as a summary distributed by proponents phrases it, and a solar job training component. And it mandates that a prevailing wage be paid for work on wind projects and solar projects over 1,000 kW.

Finally the bill continues an existing two percent cap on the amount utilities can increase rates related to their investments in renewable energy during the course of the program.

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Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Bill Strengthening Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency Standards to Create Tens of Thousands of Jobs

Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition stands with lawmakers to urge passage of new legislation that also enables state to meet U.S. carbon pollution standards

Contact: David Jakubiak at djakubiak@elpc.org or (312) 795-3713

 

SPRINGFIELD – Members of the recently-formed Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition stood with state lawmakers who introduced a bipartisan bill in Springfield today that would create 32,000 jobs per year across Illinois once the standards called for in the bill are fully implemented — on top of the 100,000 clean energy jobs that already exist in the state.

The bipartisan bill calls for increasing energy efficiency standards to 20 percent by 2025— a 50 percent increase in savings compared to what would otherwise occur based on current policies; and raising the amount of energy generated by renewable sources, like wind and solar, to 35 percent by 2030, up from the current standard of 25 percent by 2025.

Increasing energy efficiency standards to 20 percent by 2025 and renewable energy standards to 35 percent by 2030 will result in more than 32,000 annual jobs created in Illinois once the new standards are fully implemented.

The bill would also create a market-based strategy aimed at reducing the amount of carbon pollution emitted by Illinois power plants, helping meet new standards recently announced by the U.S. EPA.

“This bill benefits people in every part of Illinois, in our biggest cities, in suburbs, in farming communities– anywhere where people would gain from new jobs, better health and a cleaner environment,” said Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), who added that it was urgent that lawmakers act quickly to pass the bill.  “As strong as the clean energy economy is today, with 100,000 clean energy jobs throughout the state, Illinois is at a tipping point. There is no time to waste.”

Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Buffalo Grove) agreed.  “We urge our colleagues to act now and join us in passing this bill,” she said. “In the race to build a long-term, sustainable and profitable clean jobs economy, too many states are beginning to outpace us.”  In recent weeks, for example, it was reported that Oklahoma had surpassed Illinois as a generator of new wind energy.  More than 600 megawatts of new wind energy had come on line in Oklahoma during 2014; Illinois registered zero.

“This legislation is exactly what Illinois needs to spur new job growth for decades to come and to create a healthier environment for generations to come, while giving Illinois consumers a reliable energy system that costs less,” said Nick Magrisso of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a member of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition. “This bill is a win-win for people across the state and we urge members to pass it this session.”

In the Senate, the bill (SB 1485)—which sponsors call the “Illinois Clean Jobs Bill”– was introduced by Sen. Harmon and Sen. David Koehler. Additional co-sponsors include: Sen. Daniel Biss, Sen. Melinda Bush, Sen. Bill Cunningham, Sen. Michael Noland and Sen. Heather Steans.

Reps. Nekritz and Robyn Gabel introduced the House bill (HB 2607).  Co-sponsors include:  Rep. Jaime Andrade, Jr., Rep. Kelly Burke, Rep. Kelly Cassidy, Rep. Deborah Conroy, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, Rep. Kenneth Dunkin, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, Rep. Laura Fine, Rep. Michael Fortner, Rep. Esther Golar, Rep. Will Guzzardi, Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, Rep. Camille Lilly, Rep. Robert Martwick, Rep. Christian Mitchell, Rep. Michelle Mussman, Rep. Al Riley, Rep. Carol Sente, Rep. Michael Tryon, Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, Rep. Ann Williams, Rep. Kathleen Willis, and Rep. Sam Yingling.

The bill has three main components:

  • Strengthening Illinois’ energy efficiency policies.The bill would use efficiency improvements in homes and workplaces to reduce electricity demand by 20 percent by 2025, a 50 percent increase in savings compared to what would otherwise occur based on current policies. The bill also improves on-bill financing and real-time pricing programs to help more customers save money.
  • Updating and extending the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to enable solar and wind energy projects to flourish.  The bill would revise the current RPS to increase the share of power coming from renewable sources to 35 percent by 2030, up from the state’s current standard of 25 percent by 2025. The bill also makes technical fixes to the RPS that energy experts say have become necessary since more customers and municipalities have started purchasing energy from alternative suppliers rather than from utilities; and
  • A market-based strategy to cut carbon pollution.The bill directs Illinois EPA to develop a market-based approach to meet new standards for reducing pollution from power plants called for under the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan.  The bill establishes a framework for emissions coupled with an auction of carbon dioxide emission allowances.  The revenues generated by the auction would then be invested in areas such as workforce development, new renewable energy projects and low-income bill assistance.

 

Click Here to View Full Bill Summary

 

Such policy changes would lead to an average of more than 32,000 jobs per year across Illinois once the new standards are fully implemented, according to an estimate by the Illinois Science and Technology Institute with data provided by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the NRDC.

Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) explained that the bill offers sizable benefits to the labor community.

“The chance to create tens of thousands of new jobs—and add to the ranks of organized labor—is one that we shouldn’t pass up, and that is why I support this bill,” said Sen. Koehler.  “It is union members who have built the big solar arrays and wind farms we see across central Illinois, and who carry out retrofits in businesses and homes across the state every day.  Supporting these fields means more jobs for building trades and other union workers, now and into the future.”

Joining them were representatives of businesses operating in Illinois, including Will Kenworthy of Microgrid Solar.  He said that, “every dollar that a business saves by using less energy is a dollar they can put toward hiring another worker.”  He referred to a study by the Solar Foundation showing that the solar industry is growing jobs at a rate 20 times faster than the overall economy.

 

The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition is made up of Illinois businesses and organizations representing the state’s environmental, business and faith communities.  Currently, more than 33 businesses and 26 organizations have formally joined the coalition to promote steps to improve the Illinois environment, help consumers, improve public health, and create tens of thousands of new jobs across the state.

Chicago Sun-Times: ‘Ditch the Illiana,’ 12,856 petitioners urge Rauner

A group of Will County residents Wednesday called on Gov. Bruce Rauner to “Ditch the Illiana” Expressway plan as they carried boxes loaded with 12,856 opposition petitions to the governor’s Chicago office.

Petitions labeling the Illiana “a boondoggle” were delivered to the Thompson Center shortly before Rauner gave his first budget address as governor.

As part of an executive order, the $1.3 billion Illiana is among the major projects under review by the Rauner administration.

Asked before Rauner’s address if the Illiana would be funded in any way in Rauner’s budget, Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said only that the project “is under review.”

”At this point, the decision whether to go forward with the Illiana resides with Governor Rauner and we are confident that Governor Rauner will take a tough look at this,” lawyer Andrew Armstrong, part of the anti-Illiana group, told reporters shortly before the petitions were delivered.

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ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

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ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now