Northside legislators host virtual town hall on clean energy in light of COVID-19

feigenholtz 021920Over 170 people participated, expressing enthusiasm for the Clean Energy Jobs Act

CHICAGO – Today, Illinois State Senator Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and State Reps. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) and Yoni Pizer (D-Chicago) hosted a virtual town hall about clean energy issues in the time of a pandemic. They were joined by over 170 people and issue experts from partner organizations Citizens Utility Board (CUB) and the Illinois Environmental Council.

Constituents expressed concern over the state’s continued use of fossil fuels, increased air pollution and an exacerbated climate crisis as the novel coronavirus continues to spread in communities across the United States. Participants also expressed overwhelming enthusiasm for the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA, House Bill 3624/Senate Bill 2132), the only comprehensive climate initiative focused on equitable job creation before the Illinois General Assembly.

"Environmental experts have demonstrated the direct link between pandemics and climate change - no longer can we allow the profit over people model,” said CEJA co-sponsor Sen. Feigenholtz. “The time to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act is now. It is one of the most important pieces of legislation we have before us."

As Illinois grapples with the unprecedented job losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, CEJA would put people back to work without raising taxes or electricity bills. Jobs created by CEJA would be focused especially in communities where workers and small businesses have been hit hardest — predominantly communities of color that have seen disproportionate numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths, as well as downstate communities left in a lurch by coal plant closures.

“The urgency to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act could not be clearer as families in our communities are struggling to find work and economic stability, a reality that has only worsened as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on our economy,” said CEJA chief sponsor Rep. Williams. “With equitable job creation at its core, CEJA takes meaningful action on the climate crisis while creating an economic boost and good-paying jobs for those who need it most.”

CEJA would make Illinois a leader in clean energy by moving the state to 100% renewable energy, electrifying the mass transit and transportation sector and cutting carbon from the power sector, all while building four to five times the amount of new clean energy in the state and bring in more than $30 billion in new private investment to Illinois by 2030.

“Even in the midst of a global pandemic, I believe it's important that we continue to build on the progress we've made with clean energy investment in Illinois. The issues of climate change, an over-reliance on fossil fuels, and public health are intricately intertwined. It is clear we need to focus our efforts on building an economy based on renewable energy, ultimately leading to a healthier future. Passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act will be a huge step in this direction,” said CEJA co-sponsor Rep. Pizer.

Participants during the town hall were briefed on the policy mechanisms that make CEJA a nation-leading approach to clean energy and equity, and armed with strategies for helping to get CEJA passed in the coming legislative session.

“Legislators from across the state consistently tell us that they hear from constituents about CEJA as much, and in some cases, more, than any other legislative proposals, which is no surprise to us,” said Gavin Taves, clean energy policy director of the Illinois Environmental Council. “A statewide poll in June found that 82% of Illinoisans support the CEJA.”

“Clean energy is good for our pocketbooks, our economy and our health, and that’s why CUB supports the Clean Energy Jobs Act,” said Sarah Moskowitz, CUB deputy director. “As Illinois seeks to recover from the pandemic and financial crisis, we need strong energy legislation that will protect our electricity bills and spark thousands of clean energy jobs for the communities that need it the most. We look forward to a lively discussion.”

The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition successfully championed the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), bipartisan legislation that was signed into law in 2016 and has been the biggest clean energy breakthrough in state history. FEJA has brought more renewable energy development and jobs to Illinois, and it has saved Illinoisans more than $300 million through efficiency improvements. The Clean Energy Jobs Act would build off that success.

Both versions of the legislation are pending assignment to a committee in their respective chambers of the General Assembly.

Sen. Sara Feigenholtz

Sen. Sara Feigenholtz

6th District

Years served: 2020–Present

Committee assignments: Appropriations I; Human Services.

Biography: Full-time legislator; born in Chicago; B.A., political science, and speech and performing arts, Northeastern Illinois University.

Associated Representatives:
Ann M. Williams