By: Mark Glennon*
If you haven’t already read it, read all of WBEZ’s blistering new investigative report on the Citizen’s Utility Board — CUB’s ‘Conflict’: How A Utility Watchdog Got Millions From The Utilities It Watches.
It’s a scandal unto itself about the organization that’s supposed to be looking out for Illinois consumers in utility rate-making.
But the story’s significance goes beyond that scandal. It should also seal the case against CEJA, the Clean Energy Jobs Act (HB3624/SB2132), a state version now being considered by the Illinois General Assembly of the infamous Green New Deal for the nation promoted by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-
CUB, which was created to represent consumers on utility issues, got bought off, as the WBEZ report shows. That leaves consumers with no voice in Springfield on CEJA or other energy-related matters, putting them entirely at the mercy of utility companies, climate extremists, renewable energy equipment makers and related special interests.
Specifically, WBEZ got to the bottom of how CUB was captured by the energy industry over which it is supposed to be serving as a watchdog. We’ve written earlier about why that capture was apparent but we didn’t know how it happened, which is what WBEZ detailed. Among WBEZ’s findings:
[B]eginning in 2000, through an act of the state legislature one year earlier, a pathway was established for CUB to begin getting money indirectly from utility companies. Since then, WBEZ found the organization received at least $11.55 million in funding that originated mostly from ComEd.
As part of a 1999 law, ComEd pledged a $225 million endowment to create a not-for-profit known as the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. Written into the law establishing the foundation was a requirement that it grant CUB $7 million over seven years.
What’s CUB been doing with its money? For one thing, pushing for CEJA and, as we put it earlier, if you like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, you will love CEJA.
The Green New Deal has been ridiculed widely even by many on the left and some environmentalists. Primarily, that’s because of the cost of completely eliminating fossil fuels, which unquestionably would be in the trillions for the nation. One estimate puts that cost at $93 trillion. Former Democrat presidential possibility and Starbucks’ founder Howard Schultz ripped it as “immoral” and “unrealistic.” It would “bring about mass death,” wrote a Greenpeace co-founder.
CEJA is essentially a state version of the Green New Deal. Its central goals are 100% carbon-free electricity production by 2030, and 100% renewable everything across the state by 2050. That means the 2050 goal precludes even nuclear energy, which currently accounts for about half of Illinois’ electricity production. The bill calls for 40 million solar panels and 2,500 wind turbines alongside $20 billion in new infrastructure over the next decade. One million gas and diesel vehicles would come off Illinois roads.
The Environmental Defense Fund recently wrote that CEJA is “widely considered to be the boldest climate bill currently pending in any state.”
But CEJA is about far more than energy. It would impose detailed social justice and “equity” mandates into pretty much anything that touches on energy production or consumption, which is most of the economy. Since we last wrote about it, those provisions have expanded. From the Environmental Defense Fund:
Recently, new legislative language was unveiled that strengthens it in several key areas. For example, the bill now includes a new Equity Points System for companies seeking renewable energy, energy efficiency and electric vehicle contracts, and will require companies to commit to equity in hiring, ownership, subcontracting, pay and community involvement. This will ensure that the economic benefits of CEJA are shared in communities across the state.
End result? A 365-page roadmap for central planning. It’s a blueprint for Springfield bureaucrats to micromanage vast parts of Illinois’s economy.
How much would all this cost? How dare you ask. This is about saving the planet and social justice. That’s the attitude of many CEJA supporters. Others will simply claim that it saves money, with no evidence whatever. We’ve long tried to find any reasonably serious analysis on cost and have asked bill sponsors for anything they have. Silence. If it’s green, cost doesn’t matter.
Instead, all you will find are astronomical claims from CEJA supporters, including CUB, about new jobs, investments, tax revenue and savings. But look at any of their supposed studies proving their claims, like this one, and you will see that they are merely unfounded assertions. Never do they count the other side of the equation, such as jobs in the natural gas industry that CEJA would destroy, lost revenue from industries destroyed and lost investment in traditional vehicles and other equipment that would be replaced by more expensive alternatives.
CEJA supporters are gearing up to get it passed in the General Assembly’s October veto session. It would be stupendous folly under any circumstances, but madness for a state in an economic recession that’s as broke as Illinois already is.
Who is going to stand up to say that? Not CUB, as we know from the WBEZ report. That leaves nobody looking out for consumers. And few legislators are going to have the courage to take on a lobbying juggernaut as powerful as the renewable industry and climate extremists have become.
Salute to Dave McKinney and Dan Mihalopoulos who authored the WBEZ report. They are among reporters we’ve sometimes criticized here when we have perceived political bias, but give credit where credit is due. In fact, the same goes for most all of the investigative reporters in Illinois. We rarely see any of them hold back, regardless of the politics of their targets.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.