Illinois bishops supporting clean energy legislation

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Then-Archbishop Cupich addresses the media on July 24, 2015, after touring Old St. Mary’s School, 1474 S. Michigan Ave., with then-U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy. The archbishop discussed how the teachings contained in Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’” have been and continue to be implemented through ongoing environmental stewardship efforts in the Archdiocese of Chicago. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

The bishops of the six Catholic dioceses of Illinois are putting their support behind state legislation aimed at expanding the use of clean energy and job training and opportunities for people from underserved communities.

A Sept. 27 statement from the Catholic Conference of Illinois begins: “The fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical on the environment, ‘Laudato Si’,’ was celebrated in June. It is in this spirit of celebration that we note certain aspects of evolving clean energy legislation expected to be debated this spring in the Illinois Legislature.”

“I think what the bishops in Illinois have been observing for a while is that when Pope Francis issued ‘Laudato Si’,’ that created a whole lot of increase given to the obligation to care for the environment,” said Robert Gilligan, executive director of the conference. “You’ve seen increased attention to this issue among the bishops since then.”

The statement calls on lawmakers to continue to work towards such legislation, similar to the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which was being discussed in early 2020 but was not acted on after the COVID-19 pandemic struck, with the addition of principles for “a clean and renewable economy” announced this summer by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The bishops encouraged the expansion of Illinois’ Solar for All program, with increased funding for incentives to allow non-profit and religious organizations to participate; expanding gas energy efficiency programs; reinvestment in communities; and increased job opportunities.

Andy Panelli, a member of the Creation Care ministry at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Orland Hills, said members of parish creation care groups have been advocating for such legislation for some time.

Members of his parish have participated in three bus trips to Springfield to advocate for the Clean Energy Jobs Act and encouraged parishioners to write their legislators in support of it. The bishops’ support can only help, especially to get more Catholics involved in the effort to get the legislation passed, he said.

“Besides promoting clean energy, which we need to mitigate the worst consequences of climate change, it also gives us a chance to control our own destiny as a state from an energy standpoint,” Panelli said. “It’s moving us in the direction of clean energy, pure and simple, and doing so on a faster timeline than it would happen by itself, and it’s sensitive to doing so in a fair way so that as we create those new clean energy jobs, there’s fairness in the way those jobs are allocated.”

Last spring’s push was disrupted not only by the pandemic but by the ComEd bribery scandal, Panelli said, since the electric utility would be an integral part of implementing clean energy efforts.

“There were a few different things that kind of conspired to get it off the tracks for a while,” Panelli said. “Hopefully, the bishops’ statement will generate more momentum at the parish level. I think there’s real opportunity there.”

He said his group will likely plan bulletin articles and other communications, as well as working to set up lobbying opportunities. Grassroots Catholic groups are also advocating for clean energy at the federal level, but that has gotten less traction.

“There’s a real logjam at the federal level when it comes to taking action on climate change,” Panelli said. “When states act on their own, this is the next best thing. This is a great opportunity to keep forward momentum going.”





  • laudato si
  • catholic conference of illionois

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