April 16, 2019
The Illinois General Assembly adjourned on Friday for a two-week break. They will return on April 30th and begin the five-week haul to the end of session on May 31st. Last week was a deadline week for bills to advance out of their first chambers. Out of our tracked list of about 150 bills, 36 are technically still alive. In past sessions, we have generally seen many extensions granted to bills to be considered past the 3rd reading deadline, but that's not been the case this session. However, SB9 (Bennett), which would regulate coal ash beyond federal requirements, SB1407 (Hastings), the Illinois Hazardous Materials Workforce Training Act, and SB2080 (Hastings), utility formula rate extension, all received extensions to May 2nd. No House bills we were tracking received an extension.
Attached is the list of Energy Council tracked bills. The first tab identifies the status of all of the bills we were tracking and the second is the bills that remain past the deadline, organized by status not bill number. Of note, most of the large energy proposals have been referred back to Rules or Assignments Committees. What for sure remains is Senator Hastings' SB2080, which was the utility formula rate extension vehicle and has since been amended and shelled. What exactly that bill becomes, or if it will for sure be the vehicle for an omnibus, is unknown. It received an extension to May 2nd.
With a deadline week, you can usually expect a flurry of activity to get bills passed, but last week wasn't too crazy in the energy space. Below is a recap of the week.
On Tuesday, House Energy and Environment (E&C) met and considered multiple amendments to bills previously discussed by the Committee. The Chamber weighed in on HB2491 (Walsh), which provides a process to recycle plastic materials. The bill was amended to limit that process to a pilot project in Will and Grundy counties, removing the environmental community's opposition to the bill. The bill did receive a technical amendment again on Thursday which was heard in Committee. It passed the House on Thursday, 106-4-1.
On Wednesday, House Public Utilities and Senate Energy and Public Utilities met. House Public Utilities recessed immediately, as bills and amendments they were looking to move were not out of Rules. We had concerns with HB2855 (Gabel). The bill had been amended to further define the process for how the ICC would consider beneficial electrification, which the bill defines as programs that replace fossil fuels for transportation. The amendment goes beyond what passed the Committee earlier this session, requiring a proceeding at the ICC to determine cost-benefit valuations of EV adoption and then have that model influence beneficial electrification plans by the utilities for proposing new investments. It also asks for a review of alternative rate structures, but then appears to require the utilities to implement time of use rates and describe how those rates benefit electric vehicles and all customers. We did not think the General Assembly needs to be directing the ICC on what type of rate structure the utilities should be using if EV's are to take on additional market share and overall believe the adoption of EV's should be left to the markets, which prioritizes competition and consumer choice. In discussions with the Sponsor, she shared she was not going to call the bill but wants to see the State be more proactive in electric vehicle and EV infrastructure adoption. The bill was not called.
Senate Energy and Public Utilities held a subject matter hearing on the Illinois Coal to Solar and Storage Act, HB2713. The Committee heard from proponents on the proposal and the Sierra Club and AG's office testified in opposition. The Sierra Club wants to see clean energy goals included in the bill.
House Public Utilities and House E&E came back in on Thursday. In Public Utilities, the Committee considered Amdt 1 to HB3152 (Hoffman), which removed the calculation for pension asset, sunset the bill in 2032 and increased the utility contribution to low-income utility support programs. The AG's office and Sierra Club testified in opposition. The amendment was adopted, but the bill was not considered by the House and sent back to Rules.
E&E considered additional amendments to bills that were discussed the day before and it was anticipated that the Committee was to also consider HB457 (Yingling), which did not happen. The Governor's office met with legislative leaders and the IEPA to offer a path forward to addressing ethylene oxide and has proposed a draft. Language has not yet been filed. Otherwise, nothing material was considered in Committee.
Also on Thursday, HB1633 (Hoffman) passed the House 77-28-3. The Chamber supported the bill, which would impose stricter criminal penalties on a person who intentionally damages critical infrastructure such as pipelines, railways, transmission, and coal mines, etc. Senator Hastings will sponsor the bill in the Senate.
Senator Bennett held a meeting with stakeholders on Wednesday to provide an update to discussions on his coal ash bill, SB9. As you know, the Senator is seeking to make significant changes the way coal ash is regulated in Illinois. During the meeting, the Senator and environmental advocates clarified the intent is not to shutter power plants or coal mines, rather to protect groundwater.
In a nutshell, the Senator will be circulating revised language by the end of this week and has asked stakeholders to provide feedback. Another meeting is scheduled for April 30th and the Senator would like to move the bill through committee that week as well.
During the discussion, the Senator highlighted four substantive areas of focus: beneficial reuse; financial assurance; appeals process; and monitoring/closure by removal. Overall, the Senator wants to preserve many of the beneficial reuses he has come to learn, but is still concerned some could be potentially harmful; wants to see a balance to ensure the public is not cut out but recognizes that burdensome changes to public participation and appeals could result in significant delay; and finally is still working with the issue of closure by removal. He recognizes that the IEPA may not have the resources and staffing capable to implement whatever program is created through this bill - whether it is closure as the default or a case-by-case analysis, and has asked the IEPA to evaluate its needs, which would be provided via fees.
The City of Chicago passed an ordinance last week aiming to use 100% renewable energy in buildings by 2035 and all electric buses by 2040. The resolution is non-binding and passed unanimously. Chicago is the largest city to set a timeline to obtaining all of its energy from renewable resources.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied hearing a challenge to the nuclear subsidies passed in New York and Illinois a few years ago, ultimately securing legal standing for states to implement these policies. The Supreme Court did not provide comment as to why it declined to hear the case.
Since New York and Illinois provided support, New Jersey and Connecticut have enacted programs and Ohio and Pennsylvania are considering legislation to implement similar programs. This comes before a ruling from FERC on PJM's proposed capacity market reform proposal, which FERC has said the current tariff is "unjust and unreasonable". While FERC determined during the legal proceeding it did not have jurisdiction over a state's decision to provide subsidies because the programs do not require market participation, it still seeks to take action to limit the subsidies impact on the wholesale markets.