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SPRINGFIELD – A new law passed by State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) will help facilitate solar projects statewide.

Senate Bill 211 allows public universities and state agencies to enter into cost effective renewable energy resource contracts for up to 25 years. The previous contract length limitation was shorter, making it economically infeasible for universities to enter into solar power purchase agreements.

“Installing onsite renewable energy with longer contracts will reduce overall electric bills and increase renewable development in the state,” Bennett said. “As a state, we need to continue to grow our clean energy footprint. Senate Bill 211 will make it easier for us to do just that and work toward providing clean, reliable and affordable energy to all of our communities.”

The governor signed Senate Bill 211 into law today. It takes effect immediately.

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CHAMPAIGN – A proposal by State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) to provide Illinois communities the protection they need from toxic coal ash pollution was signed into law today.

“This was about preventing coal ash waste from threatening our water and our communities throughout the state,” Bennet said. “I am relieved that we now have the protections, regulations and financial assurances in place that we need to prevent more coal ash crises from happening in Illinois."

The new law addresses the closure of waste pits across the state filled with coal ash, a toxic byproduct of burning coal. There are approximately 25 known coal ash impoundments which are already closed in the state.

Bennett’s measure would establish processes to address the other 50-plus impoundment sites which have yet to close.

It also creates a regulatory framework to ensure polluters, not taxpayers, pay for needed closure and cleanup, guarantees public participation and transparency around cleanups for affected communities and provides Illinois EPA the funds it needs to properly oversee closure and cleanup. 

“All the issues that we try to solve in Springfield are moot if our communities do not have clean water,” Bennett said. “The most basic things that all of us need are food, water, air and shelter, which all come from natural resources. That’s the foundation on which everything is built, so I feel very passionately about protecting our state’s resources for future generations.”

State Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Champaign) and State Rep. Mike Marron (R-Danville) carried the bill through the House, and a large coalition of activists from around Illinois championed the legislation, including: Central Illinois Healthy Communities Alliance, Citizens Against Longwall Mining, Citizens Against Ruining the Environment, Clean Power Lake County, Earthjustice, Eco-Justice Collaborative, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Faith in Place Action Fund, Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois People’s Action, Metro-East Green Alliance, Prairie Rivers Network, Protect the Middle Fork, Sierra Club Illinois Chapter, and Springfield Clean. 

Illinois joins Virginia and North Carolina in addressing coal ash through state level legislation. Senate Bill 9 takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

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SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) received the “Lawmaker of the Year” award for his support of the soil and water conservation districts in Illinois and his leadership in preserving natural resources for future generations. 

Bennett, who chairs the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, was recognized at The Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ (AISWCD) 71st Annual Meeting & Summer Training Conference in Springfield this week.

“I have tremendous respect for local soil and water conservation boards,” Bennett said. “They have an important and challenging mission of protecting and educating the public and safeguarding our state’s natural resources. The work that they do not only enhances agricultural operation, but it also improves the ecological health of our farms, our water and our environment.”

The AISWCD is a grass roots organization that provides locally-driven solutions to natural resource concerns at both the rural and urban settings. For decades, AISWCD has worked with agricultural as well as environment stakeholders to protect and sustain the viability of Illinois’ natural resources for future generations. They provide legislative advocacy, public outreach, grant support, and training and development programs to enable soil and water conservation districts in Illinois to serve their communities.

This past session, Bennett partnered with Illinois Department of Agriculture Director John Sullivan to address the issue of farm chemic runoff polluting Illinois waterways. Senate Resolution 52 calls for further steps in a plan to protect water quality by limiting nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from agricultural operations – nutrients with important beneficial effects in farming but with potentially harmful environmental consequences. The effort to protect water quality in Illinois ultimately would benefit the Mississippi River environment all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico, where nutrient runoff has contributed to a dead zone.

“Soil and water conservation districts provide a wide range of valuable services to communities, landowners, farmers and local municipalities,” Bennett said. “I look forward to continuing my work in Springfield to ensure that current laws are brought up to date to support this important work, to create opportunities for future projects and to support all that AISWCD does to protect our essential land and water resources.”

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