* From numerous top labor leaders…
Dear Governor Pritzker and leaders of the Illinois General Assembly:
In spite of months of productive, thoughtful debates with a diverse set of stakeholders to create an aggressive plan to overcome the threat of climate change in Illinois, we are no longer confident that a deal can be reached this summer.
We sadly write to inform you today that as a result of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition’s failure to negotiate in good faith, we have reached what we believe is an impasse in reaching an agreed-upon clean energy bill due to seemingly intractable differences on the issues of decarbonization and prevailing wage standards.
We do not take this action without exhaustive deliberation and consideration, but in assessing our counterparts’ track record over the last several weeks of negotiations following the spring session, it appears they do not share our goal of finding common ground. Rather, they seem intent on running out the clock in order to force events that actually detract from the state’s ability to generate more clean and reliable energy.
Following a June 16 meeting between Climate Jobs Illinois and the Clean Jobs coalition in Springfield, it was agreed that both sides would produce updated decarbonization and prevailing wage offset language. The lead negotiators for Climate Jobs Illinois submitted proposed language on decarbonization to the Clean Jobs coalition on June 27, and a day later, our negotiators submitted updated prevailing wage offset language to their Clean Jobs counterparts
Our coalition learned the next day—via a morning alert in Capitol Fax—that the Clean Jobs coalition had rejected our proposed decarbonization language. In at least 4 subsequent meetings since we provided alternative language on these two areas, the Clean Jobs coalition has failed to submit any counter proposals. That leads us to believe our counterparts have no intention of working with us.
Because of the group’s failure to negotiate in good faith, we are forced to declare an impasse in the negotiations. We do not relish this moment. No one wins in this scenario.Clean Jobs coalition has failed to submit any counter proposals.
As our state’s leaders, we implore you to step in and work to find a way to get a deal done. There is too much on the line: Tens of thousands of good-paying union jobs. Thousands of new jobs created to build our clean energy infrastructure of the future. Greater opportunities for underserved communities to have a fair shot at learning new skills and earning a decent wage to lift their families out of poverty. Energy efficiency for our public schools. Clean energy fleets for our public transit system. And so much more that is necessary to reduce emissions and generate new clean power sources.
As we see in the eroding shores of Lake Michigan and the hazy skies over Illinois caused by the wildfires raging in the West, the threat of climate change is not an imaginary or far-off problem. It is a very real and imminent danger for our communities.
As subscribers know, the unions’ proposal was dismissed out of hand as a non-starter. More at the link.
* From Nakhia Crossley on behalf of the Path to 100 Coalition…
Illinois legislators agreed in May, after years of discussion and debate, to expand renewable energy, create 53,000 thousand new jobs, adopt best-in-nation diversity and equity investments and generate billions in local property taxes. But that legislation has been delayed for months. Throughout the summer, solar businesses in Illinois have been forced to lay off workers and clean energy growth has ground to a halt. There’s too much at stake to delay any further. It’s time for our state’s leaders to forge a compromise that will move Illinois forward to the clean energy future we desperately need.
* Hannah Meisel…
The impasse declaration comes just days after nuclear giant Exelon doubled down on its threat to close two of its power generators in mid-September and November — major pieces of Illinois’ energy puzzle that can’t immediately be replaced by other types of power generation. […]
According to draft language obtained by NPR Illinois, organized labor adopted environmental groups’ basic framework for so-called declining carbon caps until 2035, but also proposed a carbon offset program to allow fossil fuel plants to achieve “net zero emissions,” which would open the door to allowing those facilities to stay open beyond 2045.
Environmental groups balked at that idea, but labor complained its coalition had to learn about that rejection through the media, and not a direct response. In the four meetings since then, labor claims environmental groups have not put forward new ideas. The last meeting between the two sides was July 16.
Both sides say the fight over the last outstanding item — prevailing wage — is not as insurmountable. […]
But over the weekend, congressional Democrats surfaced new language for President Joe Biden’s $3 trillion infrastructure bill, which includes funding for unprofitable nuclear plants. But there’s a catch: federal support for those plants would be decreased depending on state support for nukes.
State Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago), a lead energy negotiator aligned with labor, said he’s eager to receive a briefing from Illinois’ congressional delegation about the proposal soon, but acknowledged it may take weeks until the final version is passed in D.C., which runs up against existing timing pressure from Exelon.
“It would be foolish to count on Washington but also foolish to ignore what’s happening in Washington and end up sticking ratepayers with a bill they shouldn’t have to pay,” Cunningham said Monday. […]
Additionally, September marks a deadline contained in FEJA wherein the Illinois Power Agency will be forced to give back to ratepayers more than $300 million that was supposed to be used for renewable energy projects if there is no legislative fix to prevent that mass rebate.
I’ve asked others for comment and will update when they respond.
*** UPDATE 1 *** Response letter from Gov. JB Pritzker…
Dear Climate Jobs Illinois,
I am disappointed to hear that you feel you’ve reached an impasse in climate negotiations with the Clean Jobs Coalition. As I have made clear, the time for climate action is now. Comprehensive, clean, equitable, and ethical energy reform is what the people of this state need and deserve, and the clock is ticking.
In your letter, you requested that I work to reach compromise with stakeholders. That work has been done. As you know, after dozens of working group meetings and hours of discussion and negotiation, my office sent a compromise bill to members and stakeholders on June 10 that reflected discussions in legislative working groups and included agreed upon policies. That compromise bill would phase out coal by 2035 (except Prairie State and City Water Light and Power (CWLP), which could stay open until 2045 with 90% carbon capture) and natural gas by 2045 through declining caps on greenhouse gas emissions, prioritizing equity investment eligible communities and dedicating $2 million per year in ratepayer funds to fund Prairie State’s 2035 decommissioning costs. It also would require prevailing wage on nearly every renewable energy project, with a 5-year exemption for equity eligible contractors, and require project labor agreements on all utility-scale solar and wind projects. Importantly, the compromise bill also contains robust ethics provisions, a new performance-based ratemaking system that would create thousands of jobs, and critical workforce and clean transportation provisions that would create even more jobs.
That compromise bill is the best starting place for you as you consider possible next steps. I have always believed that we can decarbonize while creating and maintaining good paying, union jobs. That’s why I negotiated a clean energy bill that would do just that. On May 31, President Drea and Vice President Devaney visited my office in Springfield to request that the Governor’s Office reach a deal on right- sized subsidies for Exelon’s Illinois nuclear fleet, as their number one priority for the legislative session. My administration was able to negotiate a deal that would provide needed short term financial relief to Byron, Dresden, and Braidwood over 5 years, thereby securing the near-term financial safety of Exelon’s entire Illinois fleet, saving tens of thousands of good jobs at a cost to the average residential ratepayer of just $0.80/month. That deal is reflected in the compromise bill that my administration put forward in June, a bill that I would sign immediately, ending the heartbreaking uncertainty facing the nuclear workers at Byron and Dresden, including those of our friends at IBEW Local 15.
However, the Illinois Power Agency needs significant time to set up this nuclear support program. The next capacity auction is in November. If a deal is not passed by around mid-August, some observers have indicated that there will likely not be enough time to save Byron and Dresden. Last week, Exelon announced its intentions to move forward with filing decommissioning plans for Byron and Dresden with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Under those plans, Byron would close in September, and Dresden would close in November, causing about 1,500 workers—primarily IBEW members—to lose their jobs soon. The decision to draw a line in the sand to prevent potential job loss in 2045 over certain job loss in 2021 is a negotiating position that does a disservice to both workers and our climate.
I will reiterate what I have said previously: any decarbonization framework must move Illinois aggressively beyond the status quo. That means good faith attempts at meaningful decarbonization are necessary to move our discussions forward. It is my understanding that the proposed draft language from Climate Jobs Illinois, sent to the Clean Jobs Coalition in June, would allow dirty power plants to stay open in perpetuity, threatening the health and wellbeing of the very communities that Climate Jobs Illinois’ letter states it wants to protect. Moreover, despite efforts to prop up coal plants, the market is forcing closures, outpacing our attempts to help impacted communities. We saw this with the recent Waukegan and Romeoville closure announcements. The bottom line is that pointing fingers at the Clean Jobs Coalition, whose members have already made significant compromises on decarbonization and equity provisions, is unproductive, especially after Climate Jobs Illinois has refused to send an additional written proposal that was promised to them for weeks.
Again, considering the timeline of events is important. Climate Jobs Illinois sent a letter to my office in the waning hours of May session, pleading with the Governor’s Office to make a deal with Exelon to save the nuclear fleet. We were able to do so. Then, at the 11th hour, we were informed that the fate of the Prairie State Energy Campus – the 7th largest emitter of greenhouse gas in the country, with voluminous amounts of co-pollutants that endanger the health and safety of Illinois’ residents—many of them black and brown—was now the new critical issue.
We negotiated again in good faith and, taking both PSEC and CWLP at their word, agreed to allow them to remain open until 2045 if they installed 90% carbon capture equipment by 2034 – a date they expressed to legislative negotiators that they could meet. Our June legislative language further clarified that natural gas caps would be sector wide, rather than plant specific, and that IEPA rulemaking would, by law, be required to allow the cleanest plants to stay open the longest. This represented a good faith compromise, and one where both my office and environmentalists moved significantly.
I have negotiated in good faith as pro-coal forces have shifted the goalposts throughout this process. I indicated then, and I am reiterating now, that I stand ready and willing to sign the bill that reflected discussions in legislative working groups and included agreed upon policies that you received on June 10. If you are willing to remove the barriers to moving forward, the impasse you find yourselves at can be resolved. I now call on the General Assembly to pass that compromise bill immediately, save tens of thousands of union jobs that may otherwise disappear in mere weeks, and move Illinois toward a clean energy economy.
*** UPDATE 2 *** Senate President Don Harmon…
We were disappointed to learn the parties involved could not come back to the General Assembly and governor with an agreed path forward on a clean energy future for Illinois.
The Illinois Senate remains committed to enacting an aggressive, nation-leading energy plan that is renewable, reliable and affordable for the people of our state.
We are encouraged by recent news out of DC that federal leaders may reach a bipartisan agreement on providing billions worth of federal assistance to clean energy resources, which would be a major win for Illinois. We look forward to the outcome of those discussions.
Moving forward here, the Senate intends to keep discussions going with stakeholders in an effort to produce legislation that can get at least 36 votes in the Senate and 71 in the House in order to take effect in the immediate future. Our goal is to protect jobs and promote a clean energy future, because we can and should do both.
*** UPDATE 3 *** Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition…
To Members of the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Pritzker:
We write to regretfully inform you that negotiations between the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition (ICJC) and Climate Jobs Illinois (CJI) around passing a climate and equitable jobs bill in Illinois have reached an impasse. CJI’s insistence on allowing all coal and gas plants to stay open and pollute forever is something our communities and climate cannot afford or survive. Further, CJI continues to seek full domain over new and emerging clean energy jobs, and to shut the door on opportunities for Black and Brown contractors to stake their claim in the new energy economy.
The cost of doing nothing is colossal. Thousands of union workers and solar installers are about to lose their jobs, as could teachers and first responders whose salaries are paid with property taxes dependent on the local energy sector. The impact on our climate and public health will worsen. Black and Brown communities will continue to be shut out of the clean energy economy while they disproportionately suffer the impact of pollution. Big utility companies will remain unchecked, raising rates and racking up profits while consumers foot the bill.
And, President Biden will be unable to meet his administration’s goals to contain the climate emergency we find ourselves in if the state’s biggest polluter - the Prairie State coal plant, which accounts for 28% of Illinois carbon emissions and is the 7th worst polluter in the country - remains open indefinitely.
For the past three years, the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition has focused on building a statewide effort to pass nation-leading legislation that positions Illinois to do its part to tackle climate change, and to center equity and justice at the heart of our state’s energy future. We almost reached that point this May, and again in June, until the fossil fuel industry threatened immediate layoffs at planned new gas plants and the Senate delayed action on that bill at the last minute.
Since June, the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition has been willing and eager to work with CJI on finding a path forward on a nation-leading climate bill. In June, the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition received a proposal from labor that was a step backward. CJI’s proposal created unlimited carbon emission loopholes, allowing any polluting fossil fuel plant to stay open in the state as long as it wanted, and completely exempting gas plants from any pollution reductions for the next two decades. Further, CJI’s proposal would require small Black and Brown renewable energy contractors to jump through major hoops in a new state bureaucracy just to participate in the state’s renewable energy programs. In reviewing these proposals with existing Black and Brown contractors, they believe these restrictions would put them out of business, and instead stake labor’s claim on small renewable energy projects that union contractors historically have not been interested in building.
ICJC has been assured by CJI nearly daily since June that they were working on an alternate decarbonization proposal to find common ground and to achieve some possible alignment. That proposal never appeared, and now appears it is not forthcoming.
The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition continues to stress that the path to an agreed climate and equitable jobs bill must include real action on pollution reductions in the coming decade in order to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change, and ensure that communities of color are able to create wealth and equity in a clean energy future. We have expressed openness on how to get there, but we cannot sacrifice those principles.
To achieve a carbon-free power sector in Illinois, we have proposed a number of options, including the following:
• While we originally proposed achieving a carbon-free power sector by 2030, we agreed to shift those targets to the framework supported by the Governor and Senate President, which would be 2035 for coal plants and 2045 for gas plants, with interim targets so that we aren’t delaying action on climate for 20 years.
• We agreed to a proposal to allow the Prairie State Energy Campus and Springfield CWLP’s Dallman station to stay open until 2045 if they can achieve 90% carbon-capture by 2035.
• To address the concerns of the Senate President about immediate job impacts to gas plants under construction, we have expressed openness to prioritizing pollution reduction from power plants that impact environmental justice communities first, while allowing newer gas plants a longer time frame before they have to begin pollution reductions. This would allow those gas plants to get built.
On labor standards, the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition has agreed to Climate Jobs Illinois’ proposed requirements that would apply to 96% of new renewable energy projects - up from 0% today - but seeks to create at least a viable pathway for new Black and Brown businesses seeking renewable energy contracts. We have proposed a number of options, including:
• Creating a prevailing wage carve-out for new Black and Brown businesses for a period of time to allow them to grow to the point where they can be union signatories. This was included in the bill in May.
• Allowing projects under a certain size - a size that labor historically has not and would not work on - to move forward without being subject to labor union standards, which has been done in every other state that has passed ambitious renewable energy policy.
• Allowing projects of certain types, such as small businesses, community centers, and churches, not to be subject to prevailing wage standards.
• Allowing projects built by businesses under a certain size to be able to work on projects and not be subject to the same labor union standards as large contractors.
• Allow clean energy developers to pay wages that are commensurate with the experience and training required to install solar panels, and not the $82/hour wage of a journeyman electrician that labor is demanding.
• Requiring additional efforts on the part of labor unions to diversify their workforce in the near-term.
When Climate Jobs Illinois was formed nine months ago, its top priority was saving Exelon’s nuclear plants; this was the sole focus of their late May rally at the Capitol. The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition saw potential for alignment around a nation-leading equitable climate bill in their intention to build significant amounts of renewable energy and create a just transition for fossil fuel workers and communities.
The potential for alignment still exists, but it cannot be achieved by putting the interests of large, multi-billion dollar fossil fuel interests first or shutting out communities of color from a clean energy economy.
We remain willing to roll up our sleeves to get this climate and equitable jobs bill done.
*** UPDATE 4 *** Press release…
Deputy Senate Republican Leader Sue Rezin (R-Morris) and State Senator Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) along with Deputy House Republican Leader Tom Demmer (R-Dixon), and House Republican Conference Chair Leader David Welter (R-Morris) issued a joint statement calling for legislative leaders to reconvene the Illinois General Assembly at the earliest possible date to pass legislation that will keep the state’s nuclear fleet online and extend Illinois’ renewable portfolio standard (RPS):
“If action is not taken soon, tens of thousands of workers will lose their livelihoods, millions of utility customers across Illinois will begin paying higher energy costs, and we will all suffer an immediate environmental impact equivalent to putting 4.4 million additional cars on the road, emitting carbon and other harmful sources of air pollution. Too much is at stake to wait for the demands of every individual interest group to be satisfied in a comprehensive energy package. We must act now to pass the provisions there is broad agreement on, which include preserving Illinois’ nuclear fleet and extending the state’s renewable portfolio standard with incentives for critical solar and wind initiatives. We are committed to passing these items now and coming back to the table to negotiate the more long-term aspects of Illinois’ energy future with the various stakeholders between now and the General Assembly’s Fall Veto Session in October. Time is of the essence. We cannot wait until later this autumn to protect energy jobs, protect our environment, and prevent dramatic rate hikes on utility customers.”