Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle joined officials, advocates and an impacted business owner on Monday, March 29, to endorse the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA, HB 804), praising the bill for advancing equity and helping Illinois to mitigate climate change.
Preckwinkle was joined by Illinois Rep. Delia Ramirez, Cook County Commissioner Bridget Degnen (Vice-Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee), Policy and Advocacy Director Pastor Onque of Faith in Place, and Ramon Hayes, owner of Eco-Energy Solutions to highlight the virtues of CEJA and urge fellow Illinois lawmakers to support passage of the bill.
“We know clean energy and climate change are environmental justice issues,” said Preckwinkle. “Residents who live in low-income communities have borne the brunt of pollution from the old fossil fuel economy. These residents have also been disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. CEJA will directly help these communities by improving air quality and getting people back to work in jobs that pay living wages and support the new clean energy economy.”
"One way to make housing more affordable is to reduce energy bills. I support CEJA in part because of the provisions ensuring residents have access to energy efficiency programs that help make their homes safer and more efficient,” said Ramirez. “For too long, utility companies have been allowed to use unsafe materials and hike the rates on people who can least afford it. I encourage my colleagues to join me as a sponsor, because for our most vulnerable communities, CEJA can’t wait.”
With equity at its core, CEJA does more than any other energy bill to create jobs in Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, which bear the greatest cost of pollution but often share the fewest benefits of clean energy technology. Many residents in Cook County would benefit from this job creation, which also prioritizes job training for formerly incarcerated individuals.
“I started my company ten years ago as a simple LED lighting supplier, and for the first five years I had one customer that kept my business on life support,” said Hayes, whose business is located in South Holland. “When lawmakers passed legislation that incentivized energy efficiency programs, my small business went from barely surviving to actually thriving. I support CEJA to expand on this work, create jobs in our communities, and give others the opportunity for success.”
CEJA would hold utilities accountable by ending formula rate increases that burden consumers and small businesses, while moving Illinois to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. The bill will attract billions of dollars in private renewable energy investment to Illinois, expand money-saving efficiency programs, and promote vehicle electrification, cleaning up the transportation sector which contributes more to climate change than any other sector. CEJA would create thousands of clean energy jobs without raising taxes, hiking power bills, or giving bailouts to Exelon or fossil fuel companies.
“You have heard from me many times on the Board floor about the imminent threat of climate change,” said Degnen. “It is past time for state government action to pass this important regulatory framework which puts Illinois workers first by creating a diverse and equitable clean energy workforce that recognizes the historical and institutional barriers faced by Black, Indigenous and all People of Color, as well as low-income communities.”
CEJA’s goals align closely with those of Cook County’s Clean Energy Plan, which commits to net zero emissions by County facilities by 2050. CEJA also aligns with Cook County’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in government purchasing. Learn more about Cook County’s broader commitment to racial equity, diversity and inclusion.
Learn more about the Clean Energy Jobs Act and the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition at www.ilcleanjobs.org.
Watch the video of the press conference on the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition's Facebook page.