Polluters Could Fund Clean Energy Projects

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Elliott Negin
Media Director
202-331-5439
enegin@ucsusa.org

Polluters Could Fund Clean Energy Projects

State Rep. Nekritz, Coalition of Faith, Tax and Science Groups Say Climate Legislation Could Fund Clean Energy Projects, Fill State Budget Gap

WASHINGTON - Illinois residents filing personal income taxes today may face
future tax increases as the state tries to balance its budget. But
Illinois State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) and a coalition of
scientific, faith and tax organizations today offered another approach:
raise revenue by making companies pay to pollute.

"The Climate Action and Clean Energy Investment Act would address
one of the most pressing problems our society faces," said Rep.
Nekritz. "Requiring polluters to pay would have the added benefit of
helping our state get back in the black."

Nekritz's bill (H.B. 3668) would limit heat-trapping emissions from
large polluting sources, such as power plants and oil refineries.
Companies could buy emissions credits-each worth a ton of
emissions-through a state-run auction. They would have the flexibility
to choose the best mix of reducing emissions or buying credits.

"Making polluters pay could prove far more popular-and
lucrative-than increasing taxes," said Ron Burke, Midwest office
director at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). A UCS analysis
calculates that the Nekritz bill could raise $800 million to $4 billion
annually in Illinois.

By comparison, the proposed $.08 per gallon gas tax increase
sponsored by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) would
generate approximately $500 million a year, while Gov. Pat Quinn's
proposed income tax changes would generate slightly more than $3
billion a year.

Revenues raised from polluting businesses would go toward measures
that strengthen energy efficiency, increase renewable energy use,
acquire and preserve natural areas with plants and trees that store
carbon dioxide, and further cut global warming pollution in ways that
generate new local jobs. The state could also use a portion of the
revenue to shore up its budget.

The House climate bill is part of a comprehensive set of climate
policy recommendations sponsored by the Illinois Climate Change
Advisory Group (ICCAG). The Legislature already has passed two new laws
based on the advisory group's recommendations, including renewable
energy standards for utilities and energy efficiency standards for new
commercial buildings.

A 2007 state-commissioned study found that implementing the ICCAG
strategies would reduce global warming emissions to 1990 levels by 2020
and create 60,000 new jobs in 2020. The analysis also found that
statewide energy costs would drop $1.1 billion in 2010, $2.6 billion in
2015, and $3.2 billion in 2020 compared with business as usual.

"Investing in energy efficiency, renewable energy and other
low-carbon technologies will save consumers money and cut global
warming emissions at the same time," said Burke.

Later this spring, Gov. Quinn and governors from five other
Midwestern states are expected to sign off on a regional market-based
program to reduce heat-trapping emissions. The House climate bill is
designed to mesh with this regional program and authorize Illinois
agencies to work with their counterparts in other Midwestern states and
elsewhere.

At the federal level, Congress is expected to enact national global
warming legislation sooner rather than later, Burke pointed out. By
establishing a climate program before Congress acts, UCS maintains that
Illinois would be better positioned to cut emissions and generate
revenue that might otherwise have to come from tax increases.

Fears that such a program would push businesses-and jobs-out of state are unfounded, said Burke.

"With federal climate legislation on the horizon, polluters have
nowhere to hide. Our state should seize the opportunity now to get
ahead of the curve."

Finally, Illinois has a responsibility to address the problem it
helped cause, Burke said. If Illinois were a nation, it would rank as
the world's 24th largest global warming polluter.

"Illinois has a lot to lose if global warming continues unchecked,
including reduced agricultural output, more urban heat waves, heavier
rains, and increased flooding in the coming decades," he said.
"Enacting climate legislation would put our economy and our environment
on the right path."

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The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

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