UCS Supports CEJA

July 17, 2020
U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik
Jessica Collingsworth
Lead Midwest Energy Policy Analyst/Advocate

The Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) is a comprehensive climate bill that puts Illinois on a path to achieve 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2030 and 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.  The bill was developed by the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition with input from residents from across the state through over 100 community-based conversations known as “Listen.Lead.Share” events. The Union of Concerned Scientists is proud to support CEJA because it centers equity and communities while addressing climate change.

CEJA centers equity

CEJA centers equity through job creation and economic justice by creating Clean Jobs Workforce Hubs across Illinois which will provide training for and access to quality jobs and economic opportunities, particularly for economically disadvantaged and environmental justice communities. The Workforce Hubs will also provide “wraparound” services to further assist participants, such as childcare, transportation, and job placement.

Additionally, CEJA funds entrepreneurship assistance for those wanting to start or grow their own clean energy business, and increases diversity by requiring the Illinois Power Agency to give preference to electricity projects that meet diversity goals in hiring, subcontracting, and providing other community benefits.

As Illinois ramps up toward a goal of 100 percent renewable energy, we need a transition plan for workers and communities. CEJA includes transition policies for workers and communities that direct millions of dollars annually to programs for tax base replacement, economic diversification, job training, and career services. CEJA also creates Clean Energy Empowerment Zones which will support communities and workers who are economically impacted by the transition away from fossil-fuel generation. This approach will provide funding for initiatives that create new economic development and initiatives aimed at revitalizing retired coal plant sites similar to those we described in UCS’ 2018 report Soot to Solar.

Renewable energy in Illinois

Photo: tlindenbaum/Flickr

CEJA takes action on climate change

Our changing climate worsens existing health conditions and introduces new health threats by increasing the frequency and intensity of poor air quality days and extreme heat events. Heat waves can be deadly. This week marked the 25th anniversary of the 1995 Chicago heat wave that killed 739 people. Earlier this month, another heat wave in Chicago led to a spike in poor air quality, particularly dangerous for environmental justice communities that are already disproportionately impacted by pollution in their neighborhoods.

CEJA will combat climate change by sharply reducing carbon emissions in the electricity sector and transitioning Illinois to 100 percent renewable energy. Illinois currently has a goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025, but CEJA will increase this target to 45 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. CEJA also expands Illinois’s Solar for All Program.

CEJA also addresses the transportation sector, which is now the largest source of carbon pollution in the state. The bill aims to remove the equivalent of one million gasoline-powered vehicles from the road. To this end, the bill creates the Electric Vehicle (EV) Access for All program, which will ensure EVs are accessible to all residents including those where car ownership is not an option through EV car sharing and carbon-free commuting through electric transport. Additionally, the bill includes a Beneficial Electrification initiative to incentivize electric vehicle charging, which focuses on medium and heavy-duty vehicles that produce large local health impacts.

We must act now

As Illinois faces a public health and economic crisis, one that disproportionately affects Black and Brown communities, it’s critical that we center the communities most impacted by both COVID-19 and fossil fuel emissions. By shifting Illinois to 100 percent renewable energy, CEJA will reduce air pollution, especially in neighborhoods exposed to generations of pollution and respiratory illnesses.

In the midst of a respiratory pandemic, these communities can’t wait. In addition, passing CEJA would unlock funding sources for renewable energy and create billions in new investments in Illinois. CEJA can put people back to work, especially in communities where workers and small businesses have been hit hardest — predominantly communities of color that have seen disproportionate numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

 We must act now to cut carbon from the electricity and transportation sectors and create jobs and economic opportunity for Illinois communities. We need to pass CEJA this Veto Session.