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Illinois lawmakers speak about new clean energy bill at Environmental Defenders of McHenry County event

CRYSTAL LAKE – Illinois residents concerned about the future of the state’s environment can rest assured Sen. Pam Althoff and Rep. Steve Andersson, among others, are doing something about it.

“State Legislature is helping create clean jobs and promote renewable energy,” Althoff said.

To inform McHenry County residents what’s going on in the state in terms of environmental legislation, Althoff and Andersson gave a presentation to about 100 environmentally minded people at the latest Green Drinks meeting Wednesday. Led by the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, the event took place from 5 to 7 p.m. at Duke’s Alehouse & Kitchen, 110 N. Main St., Crystal Lake.

“The importance of this evening is the opportunity to appear before a group of well-educated, well-informed people on legislative issues that deal with the environment,” Althoff said.

Throughout the event, Althoff and Andersson talked about how a recently adopted green energy bill might help create new jobs in renewable energy development, cap energy rates and keep Exelon’s nuclear plants downstate in operation. The environmentally friendly bill was passed Dec. 1 by the Illinois General Assembly. It will take effect June 1.

During the presentation, Andersson, who is the Illinois 65th House District state representative, said that possibly the most controversial part of the bill is what some might see as a bailout of two nuclear power plants in Illinois.

“Not everybody would agree that nuclear energy is green, but some people do because it’s a zero carbon emission energy source,” Andersson said.

If those plants closed, Andersson said, more than 4,000 jobs would be eliminated.

“I personally think it is green, so I agree with this bill helping those struggling plants,” Andersson said.

Althoff, who represents the 32nd Senate District of Illinois that covers the majority of McHenry County, said she has been a huge advocate of this adopted bill.

“We knew the electricity rates would go up if we didn’t keep the nuclear plants,” Althoff said.

Passed by the House on a 63-38 vote and by the Senate on a 32-18 vote, the bill also updates clean energy portfolio standards to potentially create more jobs in the state. Andersson said those jobs would include manufacturing and ongoing maintenance jobs.

“This will hopefully allow us to find jobs for people who right now are struggling to find jobs and enhance our environment at the same time,” Andersson said.

Another topic discussed during the meeting was proper recycling and the elimination of plastic bags at grocery stores, which the Environmental Defenders frequently has promoted throughout the county.

“What we need to do is educate our kids in McHenry County,” Althoff said. “There’s a huge amount of recycling in the county because we had programs with the schools to teach them about recycling. And we use the same incentive for people to bring in cloth bags, so by the time they become adults, it’s second nature to them.”

As for the future, Andersson said there could be battery plants someday in the state to help get away from coal and nuclear power plants.

“We’re not there yet, but could be there in 10 to 15 years,” Andersson said.

Toward the end of the presentation, Althoff and Andersson encouraged attendees to get more people involved and continue to let the Legislature know what environmental issues are going on.

“You guys have been instrumental in educating me about what’s important to this area,” Althoff said. “People in Illinois come to us often about environmental issues since they know we are concerned.”

David Kranz, owner of Dave’s Bait, Tackle & Taxidermy in Crystal Lake and a board member of the McHenry County Conservation District, said he was happy to see that these politicians were so focused on helping protect the environment and keeping energy costs down.

“I think it’s great when you get politicians to come out and talk about the environment,” Kranz said. “I believe the people who were there influence the community, county and state, and have the power to show others to care about the state.”

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