Over 700 community leaders, environmental and renewable energy advocates, youth activists, faith leaders, business representatives and consumer groups from around Illinois — all representing the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition — gathered in the Illinois State Capitol in support of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA). Before rallying in the Capitol rotunda, attendees met with their state legislators to encourage them to co-sponsor and support the bill.
Benefits of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (HB3624 / SB2132) include achieving 100% renewable energy in Illinois by 2050, creating a carbon-free grid by 2030, reducing pollution from the transportation sector, savings on energy bills, and generating jobs and economic opportunity throughout Illinois.
“I’m fighting to ensure that all people of Illinois, from one end of the state to the other, have the opportunity to benefit from the growing clean energy economy,” said State Sen. Cristina Castro, chief Senate sponsor of CEJA. “The Clean Energy Jobs Act is about so much more than making sure Illinois gets 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources — it’s about making sure that 100% of Illinois shares in the benefits of clean energy.”
The Clean Energy Jobs Act will result in more than 40 million solar panels and 2,500 wind turbines — enough to power 4 million homes — being built in Illinois by 2030, and is estimated to bring more than $39 billion in new private investment to the state. It also would broaden energy efficiency standards and implement electricity market reforms to spark savings for consumers while greatly expanding renewable energy investment in the state.
“The climate crisis can’t wait — we need to act now to mitigate the devastating impacts to our communities,” said CEJA chief House sponsor State Rep. Ann Williams. “We must take decisive action to reduce carbon emissions, grow our green economy, create jobs, and prevent increasing utility rates.”
In order to build equity in the clean energy economy, CEJA calls for the creation of Clean Jobs Workforce Hubs, a network of frontline organizations that would provide support for communities that have borne the brunt of environmental racism over the years. The bill also rewards companies that ensure equitable representation in Illinois’ clean energy workforce.
“The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition has conducted over 100 community-based conversations on energy policy across every corner of the state in order to craft the very DNA that makes up the CEJA,” said Chama St. Louis, central Illinois coalition organizer for the Peoria People’s Project. “This is a policy built on a vision for a clean energy future with quality jobs and economic opportunity for communities that too often have been left behind — particularly black and brown communities.”
The Clean Energy Jobs Act continues to gain critical support in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly with a total of 54 cosponsors in the House and 33 in the Senate. Today’s crowd applauded those legislators supporting the bill while asking others to address the looming renewables cliff and transition plans needed in communities where coal plants are soon closing.
Illinois is quickly approaching a renewable energy cliff, and without legislation that unlocks new resources, billions of dollars in new renewable energy development will come to a halt. Attendees and speakers at the rally emphasized the urgent need to pass CEJA in order to ensure that existing renewable energy development enabled by the Future Energy Jobs Act, which became law in 2016, can continue.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act also contains provisions to transition those who will be affected by the decision of fossil fuel companies to close coal plants across the state.
“Coal company executives publicly acknowledge that coal ‘is on its way out,’ but they are not providing support for the workers, families and communities who have relied on them,” Octavius Hayes, steering committee member with Clean Power Lake County said. “CEJA will create a plan and provide resources for these communities that Vistra, Dynegy and NRG all refuse to supply.”
At the conclusion of the rally, over 200 young people made their way to Gov. JB Prtizker’s Office to deliver photos and handwritten notes describing their hopes and dreams for a clean energy future free from the havoc promised by the changing climate and why they support CEJA.
“Thousands of young people across Illinois have taken to the streets to demand that our leaders take meaningful action on the climate crisis because we will have to live with the worst consequences of the climate crisis for the longest,” said Olivia Giannuzzi, student leader from Cahokia High School. “We’ve made the Clean Energy Jobs Act part of our demands because it is the only serious policy in Springfield to identify fair and bold action to help secure our futures.”
News item from the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition