Proposals by Sen. Hastings and Rep. Walsh make CUJA most comprehensive state energy bill with robust labor, ethics standards
Springfield, Ill. — Labor coalition Climate Jobs Illinois today announced that it will expand the accountability, ethics and transparency reforms in the Climate Union Jobs Act by adding amendments from Rep. Larry Walsh Jr. and Sen. Michael Hastings. The action makes the Climate Union Jobs Act the most comprehensive legislation before the General Assembly this spring to move Illinois toward a clean energy economy..
Among the reforms being added to the Climate Union Jobs Act are:
- Establishing an independent Electric Utility Monitor to oversee ComEd during the deferred prosecution period. ComEd would be required to pay the state for the cost of the monitor. That cost cannot be passed on to customers. The monitor will:
- Conduct annual ethics audits and
- Document any violations and ensure disciplinary action is taken.
- Costs associated with state and federal investigations cannot be passed on to customers.
- Audit of whether the projects authorized under the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act were prudent and reasonable. Any costs associated with compliance could not be passed on to customers.
- Require that ComEd pay customers an amount equal to the fines paid as a result of its deferred prosecution agreement.
“Since Climate Jobs Illinois’ formation, we have supported energy transparency, accountability and ethics reforms in Illinois. Today’s action takes from the ideas currently in consideration in Springfield to ensure that the energy legislation we pass will increase accountability standards and oversight to protect workers, consumers and taxpayers,” CJI Executive Director Joe Duffy said. “We applaud Sen. Hastings and Rep. Walsh for adding them to the Climate Union Jobs Act. We urge the General Assembly to back the legislation that turns to working people to build a cleaner, fairer and more ethical Illinois.”
The Climate Union Jobs Act would set Illinois as a model in the nation to build a clean energy economy with strong labor standards, providing more paths to the middle class, especially for communities that have borne the brunt of fossil fuel pollution as well as those communities historically overlooked for infrastructure improvements and jobs.
The legislation would require paying the going hourly rate (prevailing wage) for work of a similar character in a locality for projects using funds from the state of Illinois. To bring more diverse individuals into the energy industry and unions, the bill mandates reports on diversity and requirements to meet diversity goals. Finally, the legislation ends formula rates, requiring utilities to annually justify their costs.
Fact Checking the Climate Union Jobs Act
Following inaccurate and misleading reports about the Climate Union Jobs Act, Climate Jobs Illinois also released a fact check to correct the record detailing the facts about the legislation:
FALSE CLAIM: There were never any accountability provisions in the Climate Union Jobs Act.
FACTS: False. Last fall in its comprehensive framework and this spring in its bill, there were several provisions that hold utilities accountable, increases transparency and requires greater diversity, including:
- Increasing utility accountability by ending formula rates and returning to traditional ratemaking that includes pay-for-performance metrics to deliver the best value to customers;
- Requires utilities to participate in annual standards and compliance audits to ensure customers pay on actual, prudent and reasonable costs; and
- Requiring utilities to disclose revenues and expenses related to renewable, zero emission and carbon mitigation credits to verify that ratepayers are not paying higher costs than necessary.
- For nuclear plants receiving Carbon Mitigation Credits, the bill has an insurance policy to protect consumers. If market prices for energy increase (providing more payment for the power generated), the bill includes a mechanism that would dynamically respond and lower the credit value offered to the nuclear plants. This insurance policy protects Illinois consumers from paying more than is necessary to operate the plants.
FALSE CLAIM: Climate Jobs Illinois was created by the utilities.
- The Climate Jobs Illinois coalition originated through the nonprofit advocacy organization Climate Jobs National Resource Center (CJNRC) that works with unions to form state-based coalitions to drive state-level clean energy policies.
- The CJNRC launched its first state labor coalition in New York in 2017 in partnership with the Workers Institute at Cornell University and five labor unions. Illinois became the second state to launch a labor coalition in fall 2020 focused on clean energy legislation through the work of CJI’s founding executive director Nikki Budzinski, who had a pre-existing working relationship with CJNRC.
- Since then, CJNRC has worked to launch coalitions in Connecticut and Rhode Island and plans to launch similar organizations in other states.
FALSE CLAIM: Requiring prevailing wage would make solar projects too costly.
FACTS: Opponents of labor standards often point to higher labor costs. While the labor can cost more, it is a very small percentage of a solar project’s costs. According to UC-Berkley’s Labor Center:
- Labor represents only 6–11%of total project costs. A 50% increase in labor costs would increase total costs by only 3–5%.
- Improvements in worker productivity that come with a skilled workforce typically offset any wage increases.
FALSE CLAIM: The Future Energy Jobs Act was a giveaway to unions and put Illinois on a path where nearly all the renewable projects are done by union labor.
- The Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) has provided a real-world case study of what happens when we don’t have strong labor standards.
- Since FEJA has passed, nearly all solar projects in Illinois have been done by non-union labor.
- Nationwide, about 4 percent of solar industry workers are unionized, according to the 2020 US Energy and Employment Report.
FALSE CLAIM: CUJA exempts electric vehicle charging infrastructure from being built with prevailing wage.
- The bill does require prevailing wage when it comes to constructing EV charging infrastructure.
- From the legislation: (2) All construction performed by a subsidized provider in the course of a measure or program offered under an approved beneficial electrification plan shall be subject to the requirements for public works in accordance with the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act and as set forth in this subsection (j).