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Opinion | Chicago Sun-Times: Illinois suffers as energy bill is delayed
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Opinion | Chicago Sun-Times: Illinois suffers as energy bill is delayed

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This editorial was published in the Feb. 13, 2021 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Clean Energy Jobs Act would move the state toward 100% carbon-free electricity by 2030 and 100% renewable energy by 2050, which could create jobs without spending taxpayer money and make Illinois a leader in renewable energy.

It’s time for the Legislature to get charged up about passing a comprehensive energy bill that would help the environment, assist ratepayers, benefit communities that need jobs and help workers displaced by the shift from fossil fuels.

For too long, the proposed Illinois Clean Energy Jobs Act has twisted in the wind, going nowhere, like a hapless wind energy turbine unconnected to a grid. For the benefit of the entire state, it’s time to get this legislation passed.

Here’s just one reason: Illinois has not only gone over the so-called “solar cliff,” but it has also crashed on the ground like Wile E. Coyote. Because CEJA was not enacted in time, payments will be yanked away for solar installations that have already been started around the state. Others won’t begin. Fossil fuels will be burned unnecessarily.

Here’s another reason: Illinois has missed the window to protect ratepayers from unnecessarily paying higher power bills to support fossil fuel companies. The Trump administration is the culprit, but it will take years to unwind that on the federal level. CEJA would throw ratepayers a lifeline more quickly.

On Feb. 9, backers reintroduced CEJA in the Illinois House. The new version includes stricter ethics rules for utilities, in light of ComEd’s deferred prosecution agreement with the federal government. And Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration still has working groups meeting to discuss energy issues.

In Washington, the Biden White House has replaced an administration that launched an all-out assault on the environment for four years. On Inauguration Day, President Joe Biden signed a number of executive orders to overturn Donald Trump’s efforts to degrade the planet. But Illinois can’t sit back and wait for the federal government to do the job. Federal help would mostly come in the form of additional funding for environmental initiatives.

As Jack Darin, director of the Sierra Club Illinois, told us, “We really need a plan that is written by Illinois, for Illinois. We have to take control of our own destiny.”

CEJA would move the state toward 100% carbon-free electricity by 2030 and 100% renewable energy by 2050, which could create jobs without spending taxpayer money and make Illinois a leader in renewable energy. It would pay for the improvements by reclaiming money that is unnecessarily being paid to out-of-state fossil fuel companies. Its chances may be better in this session because the new House Speaker Chris Welch is a chief co-sponsor.

On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency published a survey finding 89% of adults value the environment and 84% think access to nature is important for mental health.

Political support is building for the environment. Illinois needs to be in the vanguard of that movement.

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