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Healing Illinois' Energy Legislation

Pastor Booker Vance, Policy Director for Faith in Place, shares his reflections on the end of the 2016 Illinois legislative session in Springfield.

Illinois State Capitol
IL State Capitol

We reached the end of the 2016 Illinois legislative session on Tuesday night without passage of energy legislation.

If you signed a petition or got on the bus to Springfield with us for Advocacy Day in April, your efforts were stellar and provided power for us. Several constructive conversations by the Clean Jobs Coalition with ComEd and Exelon this spring regarding common ground on energy efficiency were achieved.

Thanks to the mobilization of citizens like you, elected officials have heard loud and clear that how we shape our energy future is a moral issue. It is about how we relate to one another and the world around us.

Even now progress is being made in conversations on fixing the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and protecting consumers, even though we ended the session without movement on a bill for energy question. Unfortunately, I must report Illinois has been without a budget for 337 days.

Exelon continues to threaten to bailout two nuclear plants in Illinois. Faith in Place continues to lift up the moral obligation we have to reduce air pollution while creating clean jobs in the communities that need them most.

Faithful Advocates from Chicago gather in front of IL State Capitol.
A bus of faithful advocates arrives from Chicago!

In the broader context of national energy policy, implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan was temporarily put on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court in February, and oral arguments in the D.C. Court of Appeals have been postponed from June until December.

So how can we find healing for our state’s stalled energy legislation? For our state budget crisis? For postponement on the Clean Power Plan?

There is a story in John 5:2-9 that sheds light on our current dilemma. In this story, Jesus encounter a man who is crippled and has been laying by the side of the pool for 38 years in hopes of entering the healing pool when the water is stirred.

Jesus asks the man if he wants to be made whole, to which the man replies, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”

Communities desiring environmental justice have been waiting for the water to be stirred at our State Capitol. We long to push our way to the front in hopes of gaining healing for the economically challenged and disadvantaged of the state. We have been waiting for help from the likes of House Speaker Madigan, Governor Rauner, and even Mayor Emmanuel, who have promised to stir the waters, while they at the same time hold hostage the resources for various segments of our state and neighborhoods.

We must ask Illinois as Jesus did… Do we want to be made whole?

The crux of this story is brought to light by Jesus’s response to this man’s YES! Jesus’ tells the man to then “Rise, Take your mat and Walk.”

Sign that says, "We the People of Illinois..."
We the People of Illinois...

This is our challenge. We are not to despair. We are to continue and press on! We are to “Rise, Take your mats, and Walk!”

How do we do this? We must demand that our legislators be responsible, and hold each other as leaders more accountable. Constituencies must support local leadership. Communities must organize to do the same.

The options that are currently being offered are not bringing us closer to wholeness. Partial school and budget funding is not wholeness. Negotiating non-negotiables on energy efficiency and renewable energy is not wholeness. The budget crisis is only symptomatic of a larger disease that exists. Our unwillingness to address the budget crisis only reveals our inability to face the ethical and moral responsibility of our government to care for Earth and community.

A Faithful Citizen has a clear message for legislators.
A Faithful Citizen has a clear message for legislators.

When pitted against corporate for profit interest...the marginalized ask, “Will someone help me to the pool when the water is stirred?”

Does Illinois want to be made whole? We must continue our course to “Rise, Take up our mats and Walk!”

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