Issues: Climate Change: Air and Energy (LWVUS)
LWVUS Position in Brief
The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that natural resources should be managed as interrelated parts of life-supporting ecosystems. Resources should be conserved and protected to assure their future availability. Pollution of these resources should be controlled in order to preserve the physical, chemical and biological integrity of ecosystems and to protect public health.
More about the LWVUS position on natural resources can be found at lwv.org.
A report declares that President Obama has done more for saving energy than any other President. The administration finalized new fuel economy standards for large, heavy duty vehicles including school buses, large pickup trucks, delivery and passenger vans, garbage trucks and long-haul tractor-trailers. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the environment over industry by validating the Obama administration’s authority to measure the social cost of carbon (SCC). Mary Matthews of LWV-Lake County submitted a letter to the EPA in support of the Clean Energy Incentive Program, part of the administration’s Clean Power Plan.
In Illinois, both SB 1485 (supported by LWVIL) and SB 1585 (supported by Exelon) were sent to Assignments Committee on 7-31-16.
SB1485 - The U.S. Congress voted to cut funding to EPA as part of a must-pass spending bill. In Illinois, rebates for smart thermostats have increased from $120 to $150, and there are eight choices of device, up from two. There are continued efforts in the state and federal courts to end the Illiana Tollway effort before construction begins. Environmental groups are pushing for federal standards for coal tar ash be adopted and improved for the 22 sites in Illinois, both active and inactive. The clean energy bill introduced in the last session of the General Assembly by Exelon had drafting errors essentially zeroing out the green power funding. Exelon said the errors had been corrected by amendment, but green groups and LWVIL continue to support the Clean Jobs Bill.
SB1485 - Renewable Resource Procurement/Clean Jobs Bill is still alive in the state legislature as is the competing, industry-supported legislation, SB1585 – ICC Report Nuclear Power. LWVIL and our coalition partners continue to monitor these bills and will take action based on final wording should any come up for a vote this year.
The federal EPA has implemented the first federal standards to regulate methane emissions from new and certain existing (undergoing renovation only) oil and gas facilities. LWVIL testified before the EPA in favor of strident methane emissions curbs.
On April 11th, LWVIL sent a letter to the Illinois Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (J-CAR) asking them to deny the request from electric utilities Com Ed and Ameren to alter the aggregated net metering rules already established by the Illinois Commerce Commission. The proposed changes would essentially block condo owners, apartment dwellers and low income households from joining together to set up their own solar power sources.
President Mary Kubasak will address the Pastries for the Planet rally in Chicago on April 22nd where she will announce LWVL’s membership in the Clean Jobs Coalition in Chicago. Details are posted on the LWVIL website.
The Illinois Clean Jobs legislation - aka the Renewable Resource Procurement Bill (SB 1485/HB 2607) currently has 29 co-sponsors in the Senate and 62 in the House. Both bills are in various Rules committees.
IL Attorney General Lisa Madigan is joining with 17 of her peers across the nation to fight climate change including possible investigations into climate denial and misinformation campaigns conducted by fossil fuel companies, such as Exxon-Mobile.
See the state-by-state report on Climate Change Preparedness (Illinois earned a “D”) at this link
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is in hot water with the U.S. EPA due to its short-sighted decision to save money by not mailing reminders to drivers to have their vehicles tested for emissions before renewing their license plates. The IL Secretary of State’s office decided not to penalize non-compliant motorists by allowing them to renew without the emissions test. The budget impasse is wreaking havoc in so many ways.
Good news in the energy sector as the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced a major breakthrough in developing the next generation battery for power companies and home storage.
LWVIL Board President Mary Kubasak will be giving a two minute speech as a part of an environmental event called “Pancakes for the Planet” on the morning of Friday, April 22, 2016. At the rally, Mary will announce that LWVIL has joined the Clean Jobs Coalition, and she will also talk about the League’s priority for all states to implement the President’s Clean Power Plan.
The 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in France, from November 30-December 12, saw 195 nations reach the Paris Agreement, by consensus, to reduce greenhouse emissions and limit the rise of temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius. The agreement was reached, in large part, because of the involvement of the US and China, the countries which emit the most greenhouse gases. At the same time the Conference was taking place, the U.S. Senate and the U.S House of Representatives were passing resolutions to undercut the President’s pledge.
Passage of the Illinois Clean Jobs bills will be the focus for the coming year as implementation of the federal Clean Power Plan (CPP) moves forward across the country. As has been reported far and wide, Illinois is one of 16 states that is not currently challenging the CPP. Legislation introduced last session by Reps. Nekritz and Fortner are the bills we will continue to support in the new session. Both reps will conduct a workshop on this topic at the Issues Briefing next month, along with Jen Walling of the Illinois Environmental Council. The Illinois Clean Power Plan goals call for a 42.1% emissions rate reduction to 1,245 lb of CO2 per megawatt hour. This goal is higher than the draft rule reduction of 32.9%.
To further push the federal CPP agenda, LWVUS asks that we work to advance Price on Carbon emissions legislation as well. Delegates to the 2014 LWVUS convention adopted a resolution calling for such a measure and a steering committee is in place - Eleanor Revelle of the Evanston League serves on that committee.
On November 6th, President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada’s application to permit the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported toxic tar sands oil to the Gulf. This is a huge win for the environment. On August 3rd, the USEPA released the final Clean Power Plan to the states. The final plan has extended the deadline from 2016 to 2018, so the implementation of the state’s compliance will also be delayed. In the meantime, the three sets of bills introduced to comply with the CPP, have all had committee hearings and remain in the rules committee. The Clean Jobs Bill (HB2607/SB1485) most likely will have amendments added from the Exelon (nuclear) and ComEd supported bills, and the final bill will have a new number. LWVIL will continue to support the Clean Jobs Bill.
Our TFA to asking members to contact Senator Mark Kirk asking him to oppose the resolution challenging the federal Clean Power Plan (CPP) was successful. Although the senator said he would sponsor the measure, he did vote against it on Nov. 18th. Thank you to everyone who took the time to contact him. The resolution passed in the Senate but President Obama has vowed to veto it.
While Governor Rauner has said he opposes the CPP, Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a motion to intervene in the federal case supporting the plan. In doing so, Illinois joins California, New York and Virginia siding with the EPA.
Meanwhile, electricity utility company officials and investors meeting in Miami this month have said the CPP provides the opportunity and framework to move toward greater efficiency and cleaner electricity generation. They said that challenges to CPP in the courts are not altering their plans long-term plans for compliance.
Trans Canada, developer of the Keystone XL pipeline, is planning to meet with Nebraska regulatory officials soon to determine how to circumvent President Obama’s rejection of their federal permit to move forward with the project.
A group of walkers for climate awareness came through the Chicago area during the weekend of Sept. 5 and were met by environmental activists along their route and at a Chicago rally on Sept. 6. They walked from California to Washington, D.C. to attend a march on Sept. 21, two days before the UN Climate Summit convened.
Controversy continues over the proposed Illiana Expressway between I-55 and I-65. Environmentalists and Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle oppose its construction. Governor Quinn and IDOT support it. Bruce Rauner has no stated position. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) holds the key to federal funding, and the road is on the agenda for their October meeting.
Two recent articles give rise to some hope that climate change may be conquered before it conquers us. The first article, published in the magazine The Nation, is about a study called “Risky Business” commissioned by the rich and powerful directed to the rich and powerful. The study deals with the financial costs and consequences of climate change on economic sectors by region and can be read at this link.
The second article, from the Guardian, lists 10 reasons to be hopeful that we will overcome climate change and can be read at this link.