Advocates Say Clean Energy Jobs Act Can't Wait Until Next Year

Oct 23, 2019

Four Central Illinois coal plants and a southern Illinois coal mine are slated to close by year’s end.

Environmental advocates say the Clean Energy Jobs Act would create new programs to help workers and communities impacted by the coal facility closures. And they say movement on the legislation is needed now. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said earlier this month he does not expect action on the legislation during this year’s veto session. 

But State Rep. Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan) says that is unacceptable. 

“We cannot hold this bill up while ComEd and Exelon work out their legal troubles. That is not fair to the citizens of the state of Illinois," she said. 

The energy companies are involved in a wide-ranging federal corruption probe.

Mayfield said it's only a matter of time before the coal plant in her hometown shuts down, and she doesn't want residents left on the hook with the economic repercussions. 

When asked if Pritzker had qualms about the bill or if she thought it needed more support before it's called up in committee, Mayfield said she confidently believes it could pass the House based on her conversations with other lawmakers.

Pritzker has said that while he's supportive of cleaner energy efforts, he wants to eye legislation with a broader lens than what the Clean Energy Jobs Act is proposing. 

Tracy Fox is with the Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance. 

“I find it very disappointing, as does the coalition, that veto session may pass without action given the urgency," Fox said. 

Fox, a Peoria native, said the Clean Energy Jobs Act is needed to create a smoother transition as Illinois moves away from fossil fuels towards cleaner energy like wind and solar.

More than 200 people will lose their jobs if the four coal plants close this year. And local school districts and governments will feel a sting when the assessed value of the properties on the tax rolls declines after the plants shut down. 

Vistra Energy has announced it intends to close the coal-burning power plants in Canton, Havana, Hennepin and Coffeen by year's end, pending regulatory approval.

A separate deal currently awaiting a federal judge's approval would also close the E.D. Edwards power plant south of Bartonville by the end of 2022, greatly reducing Illinois' overall fleet of coal plants. 

Peabody Energy recently announced it intends to shutter a coal mine in Saline County by the end of 2019.