With Congress unlikely to pass a comprehensive energy bill anytime soon, more and more states will take the lead on approving legislation that curbs emissions, offers incentives for renewable energy producers, and creates green jobs. Those are the priorities this upcoming session of the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC), an umbrella organization for some of the Prairie State's leading environmentalists.
Just because the General Assembly didn't pass a comprehensive tax reform bill last year doesn't mean the entire session was a loss. Led by informed environmental advocates and a group of committed lawmakers from the legislature's Green Caucus, Illinois made some major improvements to its environmental protection and energy statutes in 2009. Chief among them was the passage of SB 1918, which served as a clearinghouse for energy reform initiatives, including the establishment of new energy efficiency targets for natural gas utilities.
But there's much work left to be accomplished. With Congress unlikely to pass a comprehensive energy bill anytime soon, more and more states will take the lead on approving legislation that curbs emissions, offers incentives for renewable energy producers, and creates green jobs. Those are the priorities this upcoming session of the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC), an umbrella organization for some of the Prairie State's leading environmentalists. At a press conference in Springfield yesterday, the group -- along with Springfield allies -- unveiled its 2010 policy agenda:
IEC's primary legislative focus will be on solar power. Right now, Illinois only has about 3.3 megawatts of installed solar power capacity. That's dismally low for a state that boasts equal solar intensity to countries like Germany and Japan, who are leaders in the industry. Illinois' renewable energy portfolio standard already requires the state to add 700 to 750 megawatts of solar power by 2015, but IEC is pushing for legislation speeding up the date by which utilities will have to purchase solar power to 2011. On the energy front, IEC is also calling for the development of a housing and transportation affordability index to guide statewide planning and for improvements to the net metering rules, which allows homeowners to and small businesses to sell back to the electric grid renewable energy they generate themselves. Barry Matchett, a legislative director for the Environment Law and Policy Center, said an estimated 7,000 to 17,000 new jobs could be created by implementing the group's energy reforms alone.
What else is on the docket? The coalition is urging the state to look comprehensively at its regulation of toxic chemicals. That includes Bisphenol-A, which is commonly used in plastics and food storage packaging and has been linked to childhood asthma, reproductive problems, and increased risk of cancer. The Chicago City Council has already banned it and Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) and Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge) will again sponsor a bill to prohibit the sale of baby bottles, sippy cups, and other reusable food containers for children under age 3 that contain the chemical. IEC is also endorsing a bevy of protections for drinking water and open spaces.
Check out the full report here (PDF).