Bill establishes new accountability, equity and transparency standards for clean energy infrastructure projects

$150M annual rate relief for low-income families 

Springfield, Ill. — Labor coalition Climate Jobs Illinois (CJI) today presented its legislative proposal that would put thousands of tradespeople to work building a 100 percent clean energy economy in Illinois and provide a new pathway to the middle class to address historic—and growing—income inequality in underserved communities most impacted by climate change.

Illinois Reps. Lawrence Walsh Jr., Marcus C. Evans, Jr., and Jay Hoffman and Sens. Michael Hastings and Sue Rezin introduced the Climate Union Jobs Act that broadly:

  • Sets labor standards when ratepayer dollars are used; 
  • Returns to traditional ratemaking; 
  • Preserves the state’s nuclear fleet and additional renewable generation; 
  • Creates a just transition for communities economically reliant on fossil fuel generation and establishes equity requirements for clean energy jobs; 
  • Increases the diversity of the renewable energy sector with new reporting requirements and enforcement of diversity hiring goals;
  • Invests $50 million into proven jobs training programs and $5 million of additional funding for the Illinois Works program to support the recruitment and training of a diverse workforce;
  • Provides $150 million annually in rate relief to low-income families; and
  • Reduces the state’s emissions from buildings and transportation. 

Currently in the United States, there are 28 utility-scale wind farms being built. Twenty-one are non-union. For solar, 40 of the 61 utility-scale solar projects being built are non-union. 

“With this legislation, the state can flip the switch to create more union jobs like mine that put clean energy on the grid and good money in working people’s pockets. We need our leaders in Springfield to pass this legislation,” said Christine Blair, operating engineer-solar projects, member of IUOE Local 150, and resident of DeKalb, Ill.

“The pandemic has created strong demand from homeowners to make their houses more efficient and comfortable. We should meet that demand by investing in our apprenticeship programs so that the work is done right with skilled union labor and brings more people into the middle class,” said Tom Vetter, a qualified installer, member of the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters Union, and resident of Orland Park, Ill.

“If our leaders in Springfield want to build a cleaner energy future in Illinois, they should turn to the state’s deep union labor bench to do that and pass Climate Union Jobs. If our leaders do, more people will have the opportunity to have a job like mine that allows me to put a roof over our heads, food on the table and have pride that I’m building a better tomorrow for my family,” said Bob Howard, a wind construction laborer, member of LIUNA Local 362, and resident of Normal, Ill.

“Preserving the Illinois nuclear fleet will not only continue providing clean energy to our state, it will provide me and thousands others with a good-paying job. Our representatives in both the House and the Senate—Republicans and Democrats—should support this legislation that builds a cleaner, better future in Illinois,”  said Stan Bush, Radiation Protection Technician, IBEW Local 15, Byron, Ill.

“This legislation supports HIRE360’s mission of building a diverse workforce earning good wages and benefits through union jobs in the clean energy sector. We urge members of the General Assembly to back this legislation so we can build a better, cleaner and fairer state,” said Jay Rowell, Executive Director of HIRE360., the state-funded apprentice program. 

Specifically, the legislation would: 

Set union labor standards when Renewable Portfolio Standard, Carbon Mitigation and Solar for All credits are used. It would require: 

  • Illinois Prevailing Wage Act, requiring paying the going hourly rate for work of a similar character in a locality
  • Project Labor Agreements, setting the terms and conditions of employment for all craft workers
  • Goals for apprenticeship programs
  • Report on workforce diversity
  • Labor neutrality, agreements between an employer and an organizer where the employer agrees it wont work for or against efforts to organize a union. 

Establish new accountability and transparency requirements for utilities by: 

  • 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. 

Preserve the state’s nuclear fleet and add additional renewable generation by: 

  • Creating 74 million megawatt-hour Carbon Mitigation Credits for zero emission facilities like the Braidwood, LaSalle, Bryon and Dresden nuclear plants. Plants participating in the Zero Emission Credit program would not be eligible.
  • Creating 35 million megawatt-hour Renewable Portfolio Standard credits, with 25 percent of the solar allocation being dedicated to public schools.
  • Protecting the jobs of 28,000 of workers directly and indirectly employed by the state’s nuclear plants and securing over $125 million in tax revenue to the state along with critical tax revenue to municipal governments that help fund schools and keep property tax rates stable.

Create a just transition for communities economically reliant on fossil fuel generation and establish equity requirements for clean energy jobs by: 

  • Requiring Coal Plant Retirement Advisory Committee to report on employee and community impacts;
  • Creating Empowerment Zones and tax incentives to spur investment in areas hit by plant closures; 
  • Creating a selection criteria so that new solar is distributed widely across the state prioritizing brownfield sites and disadvantaged communities;
  • Providing $50 million over 10 years for job skills and training programs to build an equitable and inclusive workforce of the future;
  • Investing $5 million into the Illinois Works program to support the recruitment of a diverse workforce into pre-apprenticeship training programs;
  • Requiring renewable energy developers to report on their workforce diversity. If a developer does not meet necessary metrics, they must develop an action plan;
  • Establishing a Displaced Energy Workers Bill of Rights that would provide:
    • Advance notice of power plant or coal mine closure.
    • Employment assistance and career services. 
    • Full-tuition scholarship for Illinois institutions and trade schools.
    • Financial Planning Services
    • 24 months of insurance coverage that (A) costs no more than the average monthly premium paid by the worker over the last 12 months and (B) offers the same level of benefits.

Reduce the state’s emissions from buildings and transportation by: 

  • Providing $30 million a year for five years to convert school buses to electric; 
  • Creating a Carbon Free Schools initiative with $50 million annually to save schools up to $2.3 billion:
    • Installing 2,500 megawatts of solar at 3,330 public schools; 
    • Integrating heating and cooling efficiency, rooftop solar, and building envelope (e.g., efficient windows and insulation) improvements.

The legislation achieves all these goals without burdening low-income families thanks to several programs that provide over $150 million annually in rate relief. Those include: 

  • An additional $31 million per year in low-income assistance by expanding the Energy Assistance Act;
  • $67 million per year by doubling energy efficiency commitments for low-income households;
  • $30 million per year in clean transportation assistance for low-income consumers; 
  • $23.5 million per a year for small businesses, non-profit and non-residential customers;
  • Expanding eligibility for Percent of Income Payment Plan, limiting energy bills to no greater than a certain percentage of an individuals’ income.

“This legislation solves two persistent challenges my community faces: pollution and lack of good-paying jobs. By putting equity and labor at the center of our state’s clean energy efforts, we will provide more pathways to the middle-class for communities like mine. I urge my colleagues to work with me to pass this important bill,” said State Rep. Marcus C. Evans Jr. (D-Chicago), Illinois House Labor & Commerce Committee Chair.

“This bill provides the blueprint for moving our state forward to a carbon-free future without leaving workers and families behind. It puts them first. As the General Assembly debates different proposals, I will fight so that working families are at the center of our efforts,” said State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr. (D-Elwood), chair of the House Public Utilities Committee. 

“Now more than ever, we must support working people in Illinois. Putting them at the center of energy legislation and relying on them to build our clean energy future is one of the best ways to do that. This bill should be the starting point for any energy legislation this session,” said Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville)

“We have outlined how Illinois can move forward with working people building our state’s clean energy future. We should turn this plan into action to solve some of our state’s biggest challenges today,” said State Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Frankfort), chair of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee.

“This legislation puts working families at the center of Illinois’ clean energy efforts—where they should be. By preserving the Dresden nuclear plant, we can keep delivering hundreds of middle class jobs for families and carbon-free electricity for the state. I look forward to working with my colleagues to make this legislation law,” said State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris). 

Climate Jobs Illinois represents the hundreds of thousands of Illinois working men and women who are best equipped to build Illinois’ new clean-energy economy from the ground up. Executive Committee members of Climate Jobs Illinois are: Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, Illinois Education Association, Illinois Federation of Teachers, International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union, the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers State Council, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, Laborers International Union of North America Great Lakes Region, Laborers International Union of North America Midwest Region, Service Employees International Union State Council and United Auto Workers Region 4.

“For decades, union men and women have built the infrastructure that powers Illinois’ future. We should put them to work again as the state sets out to build a clean energy economy. Passing this ambitious yet achievable legislation, we can lower unemployment, reduce emissions and close income inequality from Chicago to Cairo and Moline to Mahomet,” CJI Executive Director Joe Duffy said. “We look forward to working with the General Assembly and other stakeholders during this session to enact legislation that will help build a cleaner, fairer state.”

Climate Jobs Illinois is a state affiliate of the Climate Jobs National Resource Center. CJI has partnered with The Project for Middle Class Renewal at UIUC, Illinois Economic Policy Institute and Cornell University Worker Institute.

To learn more, visit, and follow CJI at @ClimateJobsIL on Twitter or join its Facebook page