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CHICAGO – People’s Action Institute, the national progressive grassroots movement, heralded the passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act by the Illinois state legislature today as an advancement toward a clean energy policy that lifts up low-income communities. The bill rebuffed a major rate hike proposed by utility industry while providing $750 million for solar programs designed to create jobs and generate affordable energy

State-based affiliates of People’s Action – Illinois People’s Action, The People’s Lobby Education Institute and ONE Northside – rallied supporters to block Exelon, ComEd and Dynegy from imposing “residential demand charges” on users, that would have increased consumer costs by basing rates off the highest 30 minutes of use in a month.

Activists also successfully campaigned to prevent a bailout of coal plants and other measures that would have shifted $24 billion in costs onto ratepayers through 2040.

“Inside the halls of power and outside in the streets, grassroots Illinoisans were able to kill the worst of the what the dirty energy industry pushed, and prevent what would have been the single largest rate increase in U.S. history,” said Kenzo Esquivel, a leader with The People’s Lobby and Chicago Student Action.

Advocates demanding environmental justice also celebrated provisions intended to boost solar power.

“Implemented right, the low-income provisions of the Future Energy Jobs Act will give working people and people of color in Illinois a meaningful stake in the new, clean energy economy for the first time,” said Rev. Tony Pierce, board president of Illinois People’s Action and a community leader in Peoria.

The organizers detailed their grassroots strategy, touting it as a model for progressive activists seeking a path forward after Republicans seized control of the federal government.

“This proves we can still win, and win big, even in the age of Trump,” said Diane Fager, a Chicago resident and member of ONE Northside. “For 18 months, we did the hard work of organizing, turning out our people to legislative meetings, lobby days, rallies and phone banks. We need not cower in the corner. We must name, claim and fight for the kind of world we deserve.”

Activists acknowledged the compromise bill includes measures they did not support, including a bailout for nuclear power plants. But they contend that a plan for Illinois to generate 25 percent of its power through renewable energy and enact, in the words of Rev. Pierce, “the most racially and economically just overhaul of Illinois energy policy possible,” was worth the trade-off.”

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People’s Action Institute is a national research and policy organization working for economic, racial, gender and climate justice with more than a million volunteers in 30 states.

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About People’s Action Institute

Over five decades, People’s Action Institute and our affiliates have fought for reforms that recognize poor and working people’s dignity and make material and political improvements to millions of lives. Our victories include the Community Reinvestment Act, Superfund, the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act and the MAT Act.

We engage in issue campaigns, public education and training to advance a long-term agenda for racial, economic and gender justice. Our focus now is on deepening community organizing so we can build lasting power across the country. 

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