Guest Column: Goals for our state legislators
Editor’s note: Although this paper disagrees with Environmental Law & Policy Center’s (ELPC) support of industrial wind in many areas, the organization extends premier and tireless efforts to protect our environment. Offer them your support, and ask that ELPC change its position on big wind.
By Howard A. Learner
Environmental Law & Policy Center Executive Director
Some focus only on what the Illinois Legislature didn’t get done — IDNR funding, fracking protections and renewable energy progress. At the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), we are celebrating the victories we and our colleagues achieved working with supportive legislators. ELPC is finding ways that work to build effective coalitions and position issues to achieve progress in hyperpartisan and gridlocked state legislatures. I’m proud of the strong successes that ELPC’s legislative team has achieved. Here are the real victories:
• Extending the Chicago Landfill Ban to Cook County: ELPC and our Southeast Side allies achieved legislation to ban new landfills in Cook County and prohibit the expansion of existing landfills.
• Advancing Illinois’ Energy Efficiency Building Code: ELPC negotiated language with the Homebuilders’ Association that preserved the Code’s automatic three-year update cycle and ensured that Illinois will be among the first states in the nation to adopt the 2012 International Energy Efficiency Code. Our partners in this success: The Illinois Homebuilders Association, Chemical Industry Council of Illinois, American Institute of Architects Illinois and Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.
• Improving Net Metering for Solar Energy Panels on Homes and Small Businesses: Last year, the Illinois Legislature passed a Smart Grid law with a promise to increase net metering. Instead, the actual language threatened net metering opportunities for residential and small commercial customers in Illinois. This bill corrects that mistake and preserves net metering going forward.
• Removing Barriers to Electric Vehicle Charging Stations: As electric cars gain popularity, it is important to get the public policy right. This bill sets the framework for how electric charging stations are treated and makes clear such businesses are not “public utilities.”
• Creating “Benefit Corporations”: ELPC and the Illinois Environmental Council worked effectively to create a new, progressive business corporation category for “Benefit Corporations” that can both maximize profits and provide significant community benefits. Illinois will become the eighth state to allow Benefit Corporations.
• Reducing Water Pollution: ELPC worked with the farm community and fertilizer businesses to create a new funding source that will facilitate greater education and awareness about fertilizer use and nutrient-related problems. ELPC also worked with the Illinois EPA and the dry cleaning industry to craft legislation requiring proof that “perc” hazardous waste is being properly managed.
• Stopping Bad Legislation: Five different bills were introduced to weaken local siting and regulatory authority for municipal waste incinerators. ELPC led the successful efforts to stop all five bills. State business interests also introduced legislation that would have allowed state environmental regulations to be undermined based on “economic” factors. This was bad legislation, and ELPC and our colleagues successfully fought to stop this effort to weaken Illinois’ environmental laws and rules.
• Unfinished Business — ELPC’s Continued Work on DNR Funding: The Illinois Department of Natural Resources faces difficult financial challenges. Over the last decade, the DNR staff of more than 2,000 employees has been cut in half, and state parks have suffered. The IDNR director worked with ELPC and our conservation and environmental partners to develop a funding package to remedy these fiscal problems. That legislation passed the House May 31, but unfortunately the bill was not called for a vote in the Senate until after the deadline. Over the summer, we will continue to work with the DNR and find a way to increase funding for Illinois conservation programs.
• Unfinished Business — Creating Strong Environmental Protection Standards for Fracking: ELPC and the environmental community worked to develop a comprehensive bill to effectively regulate hydraulic fracturing, the controversial method of extracting natural gas known as “fracking.” Despite some movement in the Senate and House, the considerable opposition from fracking businesses and southern Illinois legislators prevented a final vote. Passing a strong bill with responsible regulations of fracking remains one of ELPC’s high priorities for the fall legislative session.
In short, ELPC is getting things done. We are advancing environmental solutions that make good economic sense. This is the short list of victories. Please let us know if you’d like to learn more about our progress during this legislative session at: ELPC, 35 E. Wacker Drive, Suite 1600, Chicago, IL 60601, (312) 673-6500, or go to http://elpc.org/contact-us.
Kudos to ELPC’s legislative team in Springfield: Al Grosboll, Barry Matchett, Mel Nickerson and Sarah Wochos. Kudos to the ELPC communications specialists and organizers who also helped to achieve these legislative successes, and to ELPC attorneys and policy experts who drafted proposed legislation, analyzed others’ proposals and helped shape the results.
Thank you for your partnership and engagement with ELPC in achieving these successes.
From the June 6-12, 2012, issue