Academic journal article UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy

The Role of Illinois and the Midwest in Responding to the Challenges of Climate Change

Academic journal article UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy

The Role of Illinois and the Midwest in Responding to the Challenges of Climate Change

Article excerpt

In July and September 2007, the Illinois Climate Change Advisory Group (ICCAG) with a diverse membership of thirty-nine, voted to recommend twenty-four strategies that professional air modeling had indicated would achieve a goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Illinois to 1990 levels by 2020. The votes followed several months of policy discussions by subgroups. That work and process became a benchmark for Illinois' participation as one of the six heartland states (1)--along with the Canadian province of Manitoba--to sign the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Accord (MGA) on November 15, 2007.

Many of the principles and strategies evaluated by the ICCAG were similar to those included in the multistate Midwestern accord. Unlike the process in Illinois, the MGA did not set initial GHG target reductions and timeframes but rather said they should be "consistent with states' targets." MGA also established work groups and a policy evaluation process very similar to what Illinois had worked through earlier, including hiring the same global energy and consulting firm, ICF International, to model the impact of various potential reduction strategies. Thus, in many ways the transition from a state focus to a regional one was quite seamless for Illinois.

Prior and subsequent to the work of the ICCAG and the MGA, Illinois had also been participating in the climate change policy discussions of the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), which represents state environmental agencies and whose Air Committee I chaired the past two years, as well as other national and regional groups. In addition, the Illinois state government was only the second, after New Mexico, to join the Chicago Climate Exchange and pledge GHG emission reductions from state buildings and vehicle fleets. Illinois was also one of the founding members of the Climate Registry, of which I am Vice President, which now includes forty-one states, twelve Canadian provinces, six Mexican states and four Native American tribes, in establishing a framework for reporting on and establishing an inventory of GHG emissions from both the public and private sector. More recently, in November 2008, Illinois participated in the Governor's Global Climate Summit hosted by Governor Schwarzenegger of California, and previously, in a summit of states hosted by Yale University.

The collaborative efforts also build upon and complement a number of steps that Illinois has already taken on the state level to reduce GHGs. They include a comprehensive energy plan that included adoption of a renewable energy portfolio in 2007 that requires utilities to supply at least 25 percent of their power from wind and other renewable energy sources by 2025, additional investments in biodiesel production and delivery, and expansion of wind power through tools such as a model agreement to purchase wind power credits sufficient to provide electricity to more than 150 state facilities.

One of the more innovative strategies is a proposal for a pipeline to help capture carbon dioxide emissions from new coal gasification plants. My agency, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, permitted one of the first carbon sequestration efforts for an industrial facility in the nation, an underground injection well that is currently being drilled, and has previously permitted a coal gasification plant that has carbon sequestration capabilities. The State has also been a leader on the FutureGen project, a US Department of Energy endeavor to build a near-zero-emission coal plant. Illinois was chosen as the preferred site, and it is hoped that money in the federal stimulus plan will be used to revive and continue the project.

In addition, in January 2006, the Illinois Climate Change Initiative was launched in partnership with the Chicago Climate Exchange and the Delta Institute. Farmers and other landowners were recruited to adopt conservation practices, such as no-till, forestation and using methane digesters in livestock operations to help reduce carbon dioxide (C[O. …

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