Last week, the United States made history. Under the leadership of President Barack Obama, the U.S. took the biggest step in our nation's history to address climate change by finalizing first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. The EPA's "Clean Power Plan," accelerates the growth of clean sources of renewable energy, such as wind and sun, while cutting energy waste through efficiency. But equally, if not most importantly, it reduces carbon pollution and other harmful air pollutants from existing power plants. States are given time and flexibility to develop strategies to meet carbon-reduction targets that best suit their own circumstances.
According to the plan, by 2030 power plants in Illinois must ultimately reduce their carbon pollution by 31 percent by 2030 from 2012 levels. As previously noted, Illinois is in good shape to meet the goals of the Clean Power Plan through changes to state energy policy proposed by the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition. With these historic pollution limits bolstered by the Clean Jobs bill, Illinoisans will benefit by seeing a cleaner healthier environment for future generations in addition to tremendous economic benefits like the development of tens of thousands of new clean energy jobs all across the state while delivering savings on electric bills to Illinois families and businesses.
There has been an outpouring of reactions that accompanied the Clean Power Plan relase. Check out this video from some of the events happening all over the state:
In Illinois, business leaders, clergy and faithful citizens, consumer groups, lawmakers from federal and state levels, and many others, praised the President's actions to curb climate change and throw their support behind the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill, which would ramp up energy efficiency investments and increase the amount of renewable energy our utilities purchase. The policy that has an overwhelming amount of support and is the state's best path to achieve the new carbon reduction goals outlined in the new rules. The Chicago Tribune's editorial board underscored the need for climate action and the new EPA rules by stating: "America has to diminish its reliance on coal. The quality of our future on this planet hangs in the balance."
Though the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, there were a few predictable naysayers reciting their normal anti-climate action talking points. My colleague, Rebecca Stanfield, was pitted against two of Illinois's most outspoken critics of the Clean Power Plan and made a clear case for the state's clean energy goals on Chicago's public radio station, WBEZ. Give it a listen to see who wins the battle royale (spoiler alert: clean energy carries the day easily, despite the odds).
St. Louis-based Peabody Coal once again raised the specter of high costs and reliability concerns. My colleague John Moore recently put out an excellent blog specifically rebutting these concerns. He notes that the transition away from dirty fuel sources to clean energy won't happen overnight, but that pollution limits will be phased in slowly giving states a chance to address compliance options well in advance - and offering up interstate options that help give flexibility throughout the region.
Illinois's consumer watchdog, The Citizens Utility Board (CUB), along with numerous other studies, recently put to bed the argument of higher energy costs. CUB estimates that consumers would save $1.6 billion over the next ten years through the increased energy efficiency measures contained in the Clean Jobs Bill, or $100 a year for the average family in lower electric bills. EPA assumed a similar level of consumer savings under the new rule.
Here in Illinois, the state is in great shape to build on its success of clean energy, with the potential to add to its over 100,000 clean energy jobs according to a recent audit of clean energy employment by Environmental Entrepreneurs, and others. The Clean Jobs Bill would not only put the state in compliance with EPA's Clean Power Plan, cleaning the air and the electric grid, but when it ramps up in 2021, the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill will employ more than 32,000 additional workers and sustain that level for the next decade, while saving consumers over a billion dollars on their electric bills. There's currently no other energy plan under consideration in the state that offers Illinois as many benefits to the economy, environment, public health or consumer's wallets, as the Clean Jobs Bill, making the case even stronger than ever now that EPA has finalized its climate rules to pass the Clean Jobs Bill and send it Governor Rauner to make these benefits a reality for all Illinoisans.