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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Environmental Scoreboard Making Gains: by Environmental Law and Policy Center

Jun 26, 2014 07:13PM

The Illinois spring legislative session ended on May 30, and environmental advocates worked down to the wire on several important pieces of legislation. Here are some highlights.

Securing $30 million to jumpstart solar: New legislation requires Illinois to purchase $30 million of solar-generated electricity through competitive auction processes. This will create good-paying jobs, expand Illinois’ solar industry and accelerate new rooftop solar installations.

Stopping attempts to gut fracking standards: An 11th-hour attempt to weaken the fracking standards Illinois passed last year was stopped before it was called for a vote. The proposed rollback would have limited public rights, cut back important air and water protections and limited disclosure of chemical information to health professionals.

Preventing Illiana Tollway subsidies: A last-minute attempt to lock in hundreds of millions of dollars of long-term taxpayer subsidies for the proposed Illiana Tollway was also not called for a vote—although Illiana supporters will likely be back in November. This “road to nowhere” would waste taxpayers’ money, adversely impact the special Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and sidestep sound regional planning.

Shelving the Illinois RPS “fix”: Frustratingly, this legislation was never called for a vote despite considerable support. The Illinois Renewable Portfolio Standard calls for the state to purchase 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar by the year 2025. This law has transformed the state’s wind industry, driving Illinois to become the number four wind energy producer in the nation. But a conflict with another Illinois energy law “broke” the RPS funding mechanism, halting almost all clean energy development since 2012. Energy companies and the environmental community have negotiated a technical “fix” that would get the RPS back on track without impacting ratepayers. Advocates hope to push through the legislation this fall.

Promoting nuclear and weakening carbon pollution standards: The Illinois House passed two resolutions that, while non-binding, foreshadow the battle over the national carbon pollution reduction standards issued by the U.S. Environmental Agency on June 2. One resolution may be used to gain public subsidies for nuclear plants, which aren’t economically competitive. The other touts the benefits of coal and asks for less stringent carbon pollution standards. Advocates must be engaged on this issue going forward.

The environmental community is getting things done, but there are many challenges ahead to continue advancing environmental solutions that make good economic sense even as powerful forces attempt to dismantle important environmental and public health achievements, and achieving progress on long-term challenges that require effective, steady advocacy. Working together, environmental advocates are making a difference for a healthier society, growing economy and better environment for all.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization. For more information, call 312-673-6500 or visit