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  • Christina Krost

Illinois’ Spring 2023 Legislative Session Recap

IL environmental advocates pose for a photo in front of the IL State Capitol building.

In April, we shared our priorities for the spring legislative session. As is often the case in Springfield, there was a plethora of movement throughout the last few days of session in May.

Some items were controversial and even disappointing—like a sudden push to expand Illinois’ I-55 expressway, a budget that does not include enough Electric Vehicle (EV) rebate funding, and a plan to give our downstate utility the right of first refusal on transmission line projects. These bills increase carbon emissions and air pollution—predominately in environmental justice communities—and delay renewable energy development.

Thanks to your quick and robust responses to our Action Alerts, however, our representatives heard from us, and it made a difference! While we can celebrate some legislative wins, many of the bills listed below will require our continued advocacy during the veto session this fall.

First, the good news—Illinois now has a government ban on polystyrene foam:

SB58 (Glowiak-Hilton/Ladisch-Douglas) bans the purchase of polystyrene foam food ware by the state of Illinois and its contractors and vendors. This will include foam food ware-heavy state venues such as the Illinois State Fair, state universities, the Illinois State Capitol, and other facilities. There were other bills related to waste passed this year as well, such as SB1715 (Glowiak Hilton/Ladisch Douglass) which requires bottle refill stations at new drinking fountains, and HB2086 (Edly-Allen/Stava-Murray), which will create health standards for bringing reusable containers to restaurants and retailers.

Illinois passed several bills that will support the electrification of the transportation sector:

Though the EV rebate fund from the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) is still severely underfunded in this year’s budget, the legislature passed several bills that will support the electrification of the transportation sector. SB40 (Feigenholtz/Gabel) passed and will require new construction to be EV-ready. An amendment to HB1342 (Villivalam/Buckner) will require all buses purchased by the CTA and PACE to be electric by 2026. Finally, SB1769 (Ventura) requires all state vehicle purchases to be electric by 2030. These bills will help make Illinois a leader in electrifying the transportation sector.

We made progress toward updating state building codes:

SB2368 (Koehler/G. Johnson) modernizes our state’s building codes to help impacted residents access important Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) resources after a disaster. As our climate continues to change and we experience more severe weather, this bill will save lives.

The state invested in soil health:

SB1701 (Villivalam/Kelly) directs the Illinois Department of Agriculture to work with Soil and Water Conservation Districts and other conservation-focused state agencies to help with the accelerated soil health framework. This bill is particularly timely given the deadly dust storm tragedy that unfolded on I-55 this spring. The budget included an $18 million allocation for this important work.

Now for the neutral news—The legislature hasn’t advanced proposals concerning capacity, carbon capture and sequestration, hydrogen, offshore wind, and transmission: More information gathering and discussion will take place with legislators over the summer. The Governor has vowed to veto a plan to allow Ameren to build the transmission lines needed to integrate renewable energy. Transmission is critical to meeting our clean energy goals in CEJA, but this can be costly and time-consuming, further delaying clean energy adoption downstate and increasing our already high energy bills.

Finally, the bad news—The legislature removed a decades-old moratorium on new nuclear plants:

SB76 removed a decades-old moratorium on new nuclear plants that was slated to be in place until a solution was reached for nuclear waste storage. This bill is particularly dangerous because it opens the possibility of siting small modular nuclear reactors virtually anywhere, leaving Illinois residents without recourse if one is sited nearby.

The Illinois House voted down a major environmental justice proposal:

The House voted down HB2520 (Harper/Villanueva), which would require a cumulative impact analysis of large air permits submitted in environmental justice communities. The Illinois House also failed to move forward a bill related to coal ash removal in Waukegan, yet advanced a resolution to add lanes to I-55, which will dump diesel trucks into several of Chicago’s already overburdened communities.

These are unjust policies. We will continue to stand in solidarity with our frontline communities, as we continue pushing our legislators to consider these important issues.

Though we weren’t able to get all of our desired bills passed this session—we carry on. As people of faith and justice, we will continue building relationships with legislators, listen to impacted communities, and work together at veto session and beyond.

Thank you for your faithful advocacy. Keep up the great work!

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