Bennett Clean Energy Rally SB 9

Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act will protect land and water from coal ash pollution

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) advanced legislation today to address the issue of severe groundwater contamination at Illinois coal ash dumpsites.

Recently, several state environmental groups found unsafe levels of toxic pollutants at 22 of Illinois’ coal ash storage sites in the last year.

Millions of tons of coal ash, generated by the State’s coal-fired power plants, have been stored in primarily unlined ponds and landfills near the plants for decades. This toxic byproduct of burning coal continues to flow into groundwater, lakes, rivers, and streams around the State, including the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River, Illinois’ only National Scenic River.

Senate Bill 9, the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act, would direct owners and operators of coal-ash impoundments to remove the coal ash and dispose of if it in a safe manner. It would largely require the State to adopt federally enforceable safeguards on storage, care and closure of “surface impoundments,” large ponds where coal ash is disposed.  

“Illinois has a coal ash problem and the contamination is going to get worse. This toxic byproduct will be a part of our State’s environment for generations unless we act now,” Bennett said. “Illinois cannot afford to stand by while toxic waste threatens our state’s valuable water resources indefinitely.”

Coal ash contains a hazardous brew of toxic pollutants including arsenic, boron, cadmium, chromium, lead, radium, selenium and more. Toxic elements in coal ash can threaten the health of humans as well as wildlife. When wet, coal ash contaminants seep into water and create severe implications for surrounding ecosystems.

“Cleaning up coal ash is not just an environmental issue, but also a health and economic concern,” Bennett said. “Coal ash waste also creates challenges for communities who want to reuse former coal plant sites or attract new businesses and cleaning it up can create jobs and open doors for future development.”

Senate Bill 9 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Aquifer

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) advanced a plan through the Senate today to secure protections for the Mahomet Aquifer, the primary water source for 50,000 Central Illinois residents.

Senate Bill 2027 would direct the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to prioritize landfills overlying the Mahomet Aquifer for inspection. The bill would encourage the IEPA to use existing information available from the State and federal agencies to identify unknown, unregulated, or under-regulated waste disposal sites that sit above the aquifer and may pose a threat to surface water or groundwater resources.

“If we don’t take action now to protect this resource, our future generations will not have clean drinking water,” Bennett said. “This bill will help complement our ongoing efforts to maintain the quality of the groundwater and help us ensure the long-term health and safety of these residents.”

The bill also seeks to establish a pilot program at the Pekin Metro Landfill to identify potential and current threats to the water quality of the Aquifer from the landfill.

The proposed legislation comes from the recommendations of the Mahomet Aquifer Protection Task Force, a bipartisan coalition of central Illinois lawmakers from both chambers of the General Assembly, including Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) and Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet). The task force, chaired by Champaign Mayor Deborah Feinen, also includes scientists from the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, Illinois State Geological Survey, the Illinois Water Survey and the IEPA.

SB 2027 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

fair tax options Facebook Image

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) issued the following statement after voting to give Illinois voters the final say in creating a fair tax system in the state that would lower income tax on 98.12 percent of taxpayers in Champaign County and 99.42 percent of taxpayers in Vermilion County:

“Under Illinois’ current flat tax, a teacher from Champaign, or a child care worker from Danville, carries the same burden as an investment banker in Chicago. This system has allowed the state’s wealthy to escape their responsibility to pay a fair share.

“Not only will this proposal help us eliminate this inequity, but it currently stands as the best option to fix our state’s finances. Others may prefer to continue to shortchange students, undermine universities, decimate social services and watch our roads and bridges crumble. Or others may also prefer to raise taxes by 20 percent on every Illinoisan. But the best option is to adopt a fair tax that will bolster our economy and raise the revenue we need to balance our state budget for years to come.

“Our current tax system is unsustainable and unjust, and passing this legislation today is a strong first step to restoring fiscal stability to Illinois and helping take the pressure off our working families.”

Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 1 would remove language requiring a flat tax and allow the General Assembly to set lower income tax rates for those earning less and higher rates for the wealthiest Illinoisans.

If the amendment passes the Illinois House with a three-fifths majority vote, it will be placed on the November 2020 ballot. If 60 percent of those voting on the question vote or a majority of all those voting in the election vote “yes,” the Constitution will be amended.

SJRCA 1 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

solar contracts

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) advanced a plan through the Senate this week to help facilitate solar projects statewide.

Senate Bill 211 will allow a State purchasing officer or a State agency to enter into an energy conservation program or energy savings contract or lease for up to 25 years. Currently, construction agencies can enter renewable energy resource contracts and leases that do not exceed 10 years.

“Everybody shares the same goals of lower energy costs, reduced pollution and more jobs in Illinois, and this bill is a good first step in achieving that,” Bennett said. “Extending the time limit for these contracts will help the solar industry create jobs in Illinois, bring down energy costs and build a homegrown, renewable energy supply in our state.”

The proposal was supported by the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University and the Environmental Law & Policy Center. In the past, universities have found it difficult to explore solar energy contracts, which are typically longer than the current 10 year limit prescribed in the current law. Bennett’s bill would align with the solar module warranty length and make projects more appealing to universities.

SB 211 passed out of the Senate and moves to the House for Consideration.

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Office Info

Champaign Office:
45 E. University Suite 206
Champaign, IL 61820
P: (217) 355-5252

Danville Office:
201 N. Vermilion St. Suite 323
Danville, IL 61832
P: (217) 442-5252

Springfield Office:
311C State House
Springfield, IL 62706
P: (217) 782-2507