Future Energy Jobs Act Creates Opportunities for Clean Energy Development and Lake County Jobs
WAUKEGAN, ILL. (June 17, 2017)--Policy leaders, advocates and solar energy company executives who participated in a town hall today in downtown Waukegan said the recently enacted Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) can bolster clean energy development and jobs in communities like Waukegan, North Chicago, and Zion.
The state law, which went into effect June 1, was the focus of a town hall presented by Rep. Rita Mayfield, Clean Power Lake County, Faith in Place, and North Shore Church of Christ. For over three years, Clean Power Lake County lobbied in Springfield and pressured lawmakers to pass new clean energy policies.
Under the law, Illinois will invest $750 million in programs to incentivize wind and solar development, provide training for new energy jobs, and help low-income customers, seniors and disabled veterans afford their utility bills.
According to experts' projections, enough wind and solar projects will be built by 2030 to generate the same amount of power as five large coal plants.
"Bringing new jobs into the district and growing our economy is one of my top priorities," said State Rep. Rita Mayfield, a cosponsor of FEJA.
Many new jobs will come from newly created solar programs, including the groundbreaking Illinois Solar for All program, a key element of FEJA.
Illinois Solar for All, designed to help economically disadvantaged communities in every part of the state, requires that every solar installation carried out under the program incorporate job training. It also requires that participating solar energy companies commit to hiring new trainees for a portion of their low-income installations. This includes programming for 2,000 jobs for people with criminal records and alumni of the foster care system.
"The people of Waukegan--who are deeply impacted by many environmental harms--are fighting for justice on the front lines daily. Illinois Solar for All presents a unique, targeted opportunity for environmental justice communities like Waukegan to gain local solar jobs training, career paths in solar energy, and savings on household bills through solar projects," said Juliana Pino, policy director for Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (Chicago). Pino helped co-author portions of the new clean energy policies in FEJA. LVEJO is a nationally recognized environmental justice organization that helped lead a successful campaign to retire two coal-powered plants in Chicago's Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods in 2012.
"Residents have a fundamental right to fully access and direct the new clean energy economy in Waukegan, and we must all work together to ensure solar projects, training, and careers center community needs, are community led, and facilitate a truly just transition," Pino added.
Among the new energy companies interested in working with Waukegan residents is Trajectory Solar.
"Trajectory Solar is working with communities and organizations across Illinois to plan and develop community solar projects. As a Lake County resident, I'm excited to work with the Sierra Club and the local community to bring solar to Waukegan," said Jon Carson, managing partner with Trajectory Solar (Highland Park).
As President Trump rolls back climate and public health protections under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency, action now falls to state and local governments. In fact, 285 mayors across the country--including Highland Park's Nancy Rotering--have announced commitments to achieve the carbon reduction goals of the international Paris Agreement, and 30 cities have made 100% clean energy commitments.
Laws like FEJA will make it easier for Lake County to embrace clean energy--and local supporters hope they will inspire bolder action from Lake County and local municipalities.
"Global warming driven by burning fossil fuels is a serious health threat, not only around the world but right here in Lake County and Waukegan. Developing clean renewable energy sources is one way we are working to minimize the growing dangers from global warming--from hotter, deadlier heat waves to longer droughts, increased fire and smoke risks, more flooding storms, worse summer smog seasons and even the spread of new diseases," said Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs for the Respiratory Health Association (Chicago).
"Developing clean energy sources to replace the burning of fossil fuels will also mean lung-damaging smog and soot air pollution will decrease and improve the health of local residents," Urbaszewski added.
"Thanks to the years of grassroots organizing of many coalition partners across the state, like Clean Power Lake County, Illinois has taken a tremendous step forward in advancing clean energy and climate action through the passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act. Now communities like Waukegan have an opportunity to seize the benefits of the clean energy economy--local job creation and training, savings on electricity bills, and improved air quality," said Christine Nannicelli, Illinois campaign representative for the Sierra Club (Chicago).
Joining Rep. Mayfield on the panel were Mark LaCour of Blue Raven Solar (Chicago); Harry Ohde, assistant training director of IBEW 134/NECA Technical Institute (Alsip); Cornell Barnett, job training program administrator for ComEd (Chicago); Dwayne Lewis of the Black Chamber of Commerce of Lake County (Waukegan); Yami Newell, lead community liaison for Citizens Utility Board (Chicago); and David Villalobos, 4th Ward Alderman for Waukegan.
About the Clean Power Lake County Campaign
Clean Power Lake County (cleanpowerlakecounty.org) is a grassroots campaign supported by community, faith, health, and environmental groups who are dedicated to building a healthy, clean energy future in Lake County, Illinois--based on clean air, clean water, clean energy, and a revitalized lakefront in Waukegan.
The coalition consists of Christ Episcopal Church of Waukegan, Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Exchange Club of North Chicago, Faith in Place, Father Gary Graf Center, Incinerator Free Lake County, Lake County Bike Project, League of Women Voters-Lake County, Moms Clean Air Force-Illinois, Most Blessed Trinity Parish of Waukegan, NAACP-Lake County Branch, Organizing for Action-Lake/McHenry Chapter, Respiratory Health Association, Sierra Club Woods & Wetlands Group, and Waukegan Community Church.