As State Representative of the 104th district, I have a vested interest in the well-being of a wide variety of constituencies. Though the district I serve has a strong rural footprint and leans heavily on agriculture as its main industry, people living in east central Illinois work in a variety of jobs. Some people can’t work for any number of reasons, some people are retired. Some people work a job that pays them the same every week, every two weeks, or every month. That amount hasn’t changed enough in the last year and a half to keep up with inflation, so that means that person or that family is falling behind on achieving their financial goals.
National policy on energy production and a shift in focus from independence to dependence, from using our vast natural resources of coal, oil, and natural gas to using ‘green’ technologies like wind, battery, and solar power has seen the government invest an enormous amount of money in propping up the renewable energy industry before it is ready to replace traditional sources of power.
Illinois’ government is following a similar trajectory. In September 2021, House and Senate Democratic Party leaders called legislators back to Springfield for a special session of the legislature to pass sweeping energy legislation. I called the bill at the time, “Illinois’ Green New Deal”. The sponsors of the legislation promised, that despite the massive subsidies in the bill and provisions that take powerful generating ‘peaker’ coal-fired power plants offline, Illinoisans in downstate areas would see at most a $3 per electric bill cost increase.
I voted no on the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA). I was one of many House and Senate Republican members of the General Assembly who warned against the arbitrary closure of much-needed and very reliable power sources. The aftermath of the passage of CEJA has been devastating for Illinoisans living south of the nuclear power generators operated by troubled energy giant ComEd.
I’m for an all-of-the-above approach when it comes to being energy independent, and I find the threat of individuals and businesses going bankrupt, and the real possibility of brownouts and blackouts due to reckless Democrat-sponsored energy policies completely unacceptable. Illinois has already lost four downstate coal plants, accounting for more than 2,000 megawatts of reliable energy since Governor Pritzker has taken office.
I had a meeting with a local organization that works with seniors and other folks on low fixed incomes earlier this month. The mission of the organization is to connect people with state services to assist with energy costs. What I learned was both shocking and disturbing. People on the lowest end of the income spectrum in Illinois are feeling major financial pinch because of increased energy costs.
In just one instance of many, a senior living on a fixed income of just 790 dollars per month, before the recent spike in energy costs, paid about $50 dollars a month toward their electric bill. After the recent spike in energy costs due to CEJA, this person will now owe $150 dollars per month. The person’s share for energy cost, even with assistance, increased 200%! After rent, accounting for inflation at the grocery store and gas pump, medical expenses, and miscellaneous costs that arise, how is this person supposed to survive?
This is just one example of hundreds of thousands throughout the State of Illinois. While people are suffering, what do we hear from the Pritzker Administration? Nothing. What is the Democrat Supermajority doing in the House or Senate? Nothing. What do we hear from those social justice warriors so bent on ‘equity’ for the poor? Crickets.
It seems to me the very politicians and green energy advocates that constantly brag about their support for the social safety net are the ones destroying it. With these costs rising at unaffordable levels, are the politicians that caused the mess going to increase funds for programs like Illinois’ Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by 200% to cover what’s happening to people on fixed incomes? If not, what choice does the average person in this situation have? The price spikes are a direct result of the policies supported by those placing green energy at the top of their priority list. These policies were supported by the very same Democratic politicians in Illinois that make their political living claiming to care for people at the low end of the income spectrum.
Illinois is home to hundreds of years of coal, oil, and natural gas reserves. We have enough resources underground to provide our citizens with clean, cheap, reliable, efficient energy. We have enough resources to be energy independent as a state, instead of buying power from Kentucky and Indiana, who by the way are burning Illinois coal at their coal-fired power plants. We have doubled down on stupid in this state at the altar of the green energy political religion that JB Pritzker and his Democratic colleagues support.
Pointing out problems is the easy part. A good question for me would be, “OK Mike, what are you going to do about it?” I’m taking action by sponsoring a package of bills that, if passed, would cut costs for consumers, reinvest in our bountiful natural resources, put people to work in good-paying jobs, and restore Illinois’ energy security and independence. My legislation will Re-Energize Illinois. Here are the specifics.
HB 5780 would repurpose $10 million from fees already collected by Illinois ratepayers for renewables to retrofit coal and natural gas plants with carbon-capturing technology. The bill also includes the creation of a new Power Grid Task Force to study the effect of state laws, including CEJA, on energy prices as well as grid reliability. The task force would also be charged with exploring ways to improve the power supply mix within the state using existing energy resources and new technologies, with the stated goal of ensuring the future stability and reliability of Illinois’ power grid. The bill will consider the present and future needs of Illinois consumers while simultaneously addressing any issues related to the performance and reliability of power generation in Illinois.
HB 5781 repeals the forced 2045 closure date for coal and natural gas power plants that was implemented under the provisions of CEJA, which was signed by Governor Pritzker in 2021. The bill would also allow companies to build new gas peaker plants without the fear of forced closure to ensure Illinois’ grid will be able to meet its demand.
HB 5782 would eliminate red tape at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that has been preventing new power plants from coming online in a timely manner by expediting the state permitting process.
I am prepared to defend these bills to anyone that wants to debate them, and I am continuing to demand these measures be called for a vote as soon as possible. Winter is coming, prices are too high, and the current situation facing families, businesses, and seniors on fixed incomes is unsustainable and dangerous.
Reckless energy policies are costing the average person hundreds more dollars a month at the gas pump, grocery store, and home. We are the leader of the free world, the most powerful country on earth, the richest in resources, and the most capable of keeping costs low for our citizens, yet, every decision that has been made by President Biden and JB Pritzker has led to a lower standard of living for the average person. We must do better. Let’s start with my plan to Re-Energize Illinois.