Author: Journal Editor Page 1 of 3

Legalized Marijuana and Energy Use: A Primer

Marijuana use, whether for recreational or medicinal purposes, is growing. Because some states prohibit growing hemp plants outdoors, much of the production is indoors—an energy-intensive operation that requires grow lights, air conditioning, and dehumidification.[1] Cannabis cultivation centers (where the plants are grown) have been likened to data centers, which are “50 to 200 times more energy-intense than a typical office building.”[2] With more states expected to legalize recreational cannabis in the next few years (medical use is currently legal in 33 states,[3] and adult recreational cannabis use is currently legal in 11 states[4]), demand for marijuana will continue to grow, bringing with it strain on energy resources.

In Illinois, energy efficiency is a statewide concern, including in the cannabis sector. Under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, cultivation centers (where the hemp plants are grown) must have an energy and resource plan, including:

(i) energy needs, including estimates of monthly electricity and gas usage, to what extent it will procure energy from a local utility or from on-site generation, and if it has or will adopt a sustainable energy use and energy conservation policy;

(ii) water needs, including estimated water draw and if it has or will adopt a sustainable water use and water conservation policy; and

(iii) waste management, including if it has or will adopt a waste reduction policy.[5]

The statute also specifies technological standards for the facility, including for lights, HVAC systems, automated water application, and water filtration.[6]

These measures may be especially important due to the marked uptick in cannabis use during the COVID-19 pandemic,[7] though overall electricity demand fell in the Midwest this spring, likely due to decreased manufacturing and other economic activity.[8]


[1] Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, Indoor Agriculture, https://www.mwalliance.org/initiatives/issues/indoor-agriculture (last visited Sept. 17, 2020).

[2] Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, Legalized Cannabis and Energy Use https://www.mwalliance.org/sites/default/files/meea-research/cannabis_fact_sheet_2.19.20.pdf/.

[3] State Medical Marijuana Laws, Nat’l Conference of State Legislators (Mar. 10, 2020),  https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx (last visited Sept. 17, 2020).

[4]Marijuana Overview, Nat’l Conference of State Legislators (Oct. 17, 2019), https://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/marijuana-overview.aspx (last visited Sept. 17, 2020).

[5] 410 Ill. Comp. Stat. 705/20-15(a)(18) (2019).

[6] 705/20-15(a)(23).

[7] Alison Stine, You Know What Else Has Sold Well During the Pandemic? Weed Edibles, N.Y. Times (Sept. 4, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/13/style/weed-edibles-pandemic.html.

[8] Daily electricity demand impacts from COVID-19 mitigation efforts differ by region, U.S. Energy Info. Admin. (May 7, 2020), https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=43636 (last visited Sept. 17, 2020).

ComEd corruption probe: facing legal scrutiny on all sides

Commonwealth Edison Company (“ComEd”),  Illinois’ largest electric utility provider, finds itself mired in lawsuits after federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against the Company earlier this summer. In July, federal prosecutors entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (“DPA”) with ComEd that implicated a range of actors—from ComEd executives to long-time Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan—in a years-long bribery scheme.[1] Federal prosecutors, state regulators, and ratepayers seek to hold ComEd accountable for its conduct.

The Deferred Prosecution Agreement

In the context of corporate criminal liability, deferred prosecution agreements are essentially a form of “corporate probation,” whereby federal prosecutors file criminal charges against a corporation, but with the explicit agreement that those charges will be dismissed so long as the corporation fulfills its obligations under the DPA.[2]

The United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois entered into a DPA with ComEd on July 17, 2020.[3] Under the terms of the DPA, ComEd “admits, accepts, and acknowledges” responsibility for the bribery charges brought by the government.[4] The DPA is effective for three years, during which time ComEd agreed to pay a $200 million fine and enhance its corporate compliance program.[5] Specifically, ComEd agreed to ensure that that those individuals implicated in the bribery charges are no longer associated with the Company and to create a new position within ComEd—Executive Vice President for Compliance and Audit—to oversee the Company’s remediation efforts.[6]

Oversight from State Regulators

As an electric distribution subsidiary of its parent company, Exelon Corporation, ComEd is subject to regulation and oversight by the Illinois Commerce Commission (“ICC”). In the wake of the DPA, ICC commissioners questioned ComEd’s top executives, including CEO Joe Dominguez, on the terms of the agreement and potential effects the charges may have on ComEd’s business and ratepayers.[7] During the ICC’s regular open meeting on July 29, Mr. Dominguez faced pointed questions from regulators, but maintained that no ratepayer funds were involved in any part of the bribery allegations.[8] Mr. Dominguez also affirmed that ratepayers will not be responsible for paying the $200 million fine; rather, Exelon’s shareholders will bear the criminal penalty.[9] The ICC has not opened a formal independent investigation into the bribery charges, though ICC commissioners  said they expect “continuous and ongoing reporting to the ICC regarding ComEd’s practices.”[10]

ComEd Customers Seek Restitution

In addition to pressure from both the federal government and state regulators, ComEd’s commercial and residential customers filed lawsuits against the Company. In July, residential customers filed two class action lawsuits, one in Cook County, and one in the Northern District of Illinois alleging that their electricity rates increased after ComEd allegedly engaged in bribery to ensure the passage of the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (“EIMA”) and the Future Energy Jobs Act (“FEJA”).[11] Some commercial customers filed a separate suit in August claiming  they experienced higher utility costs and diminished property values after EIMA and FEJA were signed into law.[12] The commercial customers allege that to ensure the legislation was approved, ComEd engaged in a “criminal enterprise in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act” and also violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.[13]


[1] Tony Arnold & Dave McKinney, ComEd Charged With Bribery For Steering Jobs, Other Benefits For Speaker Michael Madigan. Speaker Denies The Feds’ Claims, WBEZ (July 17, 2020), https://www.wbez.org/stories/comed-avoids-prosecution-in-sprawling-corruption-probe-over-its-springfield-lobbying-activities/67133f96-6dc0-4e62-81cf-a9ebc6edad9c.

[2] Christopher A. Wray & Robert K. Hur, The State of Federal Prosecution: Corporate Criminal Prosecution in a Post-Enron World: The Thompson Memo in Theory and Practice, 43 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 1095, 1104 (2006).

[3] Deferred Prosecution Agreement, United States v. Commonwealth Edison Co. (July 17, 2020), https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndil/press-release/file/1295241/download.

[4] Id. at 1.

[5] Id. at 7, 9.

[6] Id. at 9.

[7] Iulia Gheorghiu, ComEd CEO says no ratepayer funds involved in alleged bribery, misconduct, Utility Dive (July 30, 2020), https://www.utilitydive.com/news/comed-ceo-says-no-ratepayer-funds-involved-in-alleged-bribery-misconduct/582590/.

[8] Press Release, Illinois Commerce Commission, ICC Questions Top ComEd Execs on Ethics Reform & Deferred Prosecution Agreement (July 31, 2020), https://www.icc.illinois.gov/downloads/public/news/ICC%20Questions%20Top%20ComEd%20Execs%20in%20Open%20Session.pdf.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Celeste Bott, Customers Sue ComEd In Wake Of Bribery Scheme Settlement, Law360 (July 28, 2020), https://www-law360-com.kentlaw-iit.idm.oclc.org/consumerprotection/articles/1296200/customers-sue-comed-in-wake-of-bribery-scheme-settlement.

[12] Celeste Bott, Commercial Customers Say ComEd’s Bribery Violated RICO, Law360 (Aug. 25, 2020), https://www-law360-com.kentlaw-iit.idm.oclc.org/articles/1304067/commercial-customers-say-comed-s-bribery-violated-rico.

[13] Id.

Illinois Pollution Control Board holds hearing, receives public comment to finalize coal ash rule

On August 13 the Illinois Pollution Control Board (“IPCB”) held the first of two scheduled hearings on the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s (“IEPA”) proposed rule for mitigating and remediating coal ash ponds throughout the state.[1]

Coal combustion residual surface impoundments, known commonly as coal ash ponds, are repositories for the potentially harmful byproducts of coal-powered electric generation facilities.[2] Absent proper mitigation efforts, pollutants that collect in coal ash ponds can seep into and contaminate the surrounding groundwater.[3]

The hearings mark the final stage of a years-long process to change how industry and state regulators manage coal ash ponds. A 2018 report by a coalition of environmental organizations found that 22 of the 24 coal ash ponds in Illinois have released toxic pollutants, including arsenic, cobalt, and lithium, into the groundwater.[4]  In the wake of these findings, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act (“Act”) into law.[5] The Act prohibits the discharge of coal ash into the environment and directs IEPA to propose a rule for the design, operation, and—when necessary—closure of coal ash ponds.[6] IEPA solicited public comments on the rulemaking during fall 2019 and submitted its draft rule to IPCB on December 11, 2019.[7] After receiving written comments on the draft rule, IEPA released the proposed rule on March 20.[8]

The proposed rule creates a new Part 845 in Title 35 of the Illinois Administrative Code, and is, at a baseline, at least as protective as U.S. EPA’s federal regulations governing coal ash ponds.[9] But stakeholders and environmental experts called for more comprehensive oversight and regulation in the proposed rule.[10] Specifically, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Prairie Rivers Network, and Sierra Club argued that the proposed rule should contain a clear policy that coal ash ponds cannot come into contact with other water sources.[11]

Citing the danger posed by the cross-contamination of water sources, the environmental groups proposed the following revisions: (1) that the base of a surface impoundment be no less than five feet above the highest groundwater elevation, (2) the addition of a new section that prohibits new or existing impoundments in floodplains, and (3) a prohibition of intermittent, recurring, or sustained hydraulic connection between the coal ash ponds and ground or surface water.[12]

Industry representatives, on the other hand, claim that the proposed rule is “substantially and unnecessarily more restrictive than the [federal Coal Combustion Residuals] rule”[13] and warn that additional regulations could imposes significant costs on owners and operators of coal ash ponds.[14] Industry comments may prove particularly timely, as the U.S. EPA announced on August 31 it is rolling back federal coal ash regulations by extending compliance deadlines and allowing certain generators to opt out of the requirements entirely, among other regulatory relaxations.[15] IPCB will hold the second virtual hearing on September 29, 30, and October 1,and must adopt the proposed rule by March 30, 2021.[16]


[1] Kari Lydersen, Illinoisans demand stricter coal ash rules, denounce state proposal, Energy News Network (Aug. 14, 2020), https://energynews.us/2020/08/14/midwest/illinoisans-demand-stricter-coal-ash-rules-denounce-state-proposal/.

[2] Coal Combustion Residual Surface Impoundments, Ill. Envtl. Prot. Agency, https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/water-quality/watershed-management/ccr-surface-impoundments/Pages/default.aspx (last visited Sept. 2, 2020).

[3] Earthjustice, Prairie Rivers Network, Environmental Integrity Project & Sierra Club, Cap and Run: Toxic Coal Ash Left Behind by Big Polluters Threatens Illinois Water (Nov. 27, 2018), https://illinoiscoalash.files.wordpress.com/2018/12/ilcoalashreport_capandrun.pdf.

[4] Id. at 3.

[5] Alex Ruppenthal, Illinois Becomes Latest State to Crack Down on Coal Ash Pollution, WTTW (July 31, 2019), https://news.wttw.com/2019/07/31/illinois-becomes-latest-state-crack-down-coal-ash-pollution.

[6] See 415 ILCS 5/22.59 (2019).

[7] Ill. Envtl. Prot. Agency, supra note 2.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.; see 40 C.F.R. § 257.50-107 (2020).

[10] Initial Public Comments of Environmental Law & Policy Center, Prairie Rivers Network, and Sierra Club at 6–7, In re Standards for the Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals in Surface Impoundments: Proposed New 35 Ill. Adm. Code 845, R20-19 (filed June 15, 2020), https://pcb.illinois.gov/documents/dsweb/Get/Document-102410.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Dynegy’s Prefiled Testimony at 11, In re Standards for the Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals in Surface Impoundments: Proposed New 35 Ill. Adm. Code 845, R20-19 (filed Aug. 27, 2020), https://pcb.illinois.gov/documents/dsweb/Get/Document-102866.

[14] Id.

[15] Lisa Friedman, E.P.A. Relaxes Rules Limiting Toxic Waste From Coal Plants, N.Y. Times (Aug. 31, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/31/climate/trump-coal-plants.html?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Issue:%202020-09-01%20Utility%20Dive%20Newsletter%20%5Bissue:29407%5D&utm_term=Utility%20Dive.

[16] Ill. Envtl. Prot. Agency, supra note 2.

Moratorium on Utility Shutoffs to Expire

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have mandated that utilities maintain service regardless of customers’ ability to pay. [1] The Illinois Commerce Commission (“ICC,” the quasi-judicial agency that regulates Illinois’s utilities), for example, issued an order requiring various customer protections, including a moratorium on utility shutoffs due to nonpayment, more generous deferred payment arrangements, and more favorable credit reporting for missed payments. [2]

Despite there being no end in sight to the pandemic and consequent high levels of unemployment, many of these protections will soon expire in Illinois and elsewhere. Per the ICC order, large utilities in Illinois (such as ComEd and Nicor) are now permitted to begin issuing shutoff notices to residential customers for nonpayment. [3] Many utilities will continue to offer assistance for customers, but the provisions are not as generous as a complete moratorium on shutoffs. [4] If customers could not previously pay their bills due to COVID-related hardship they are unlikely to now be in a position to pay, especially with mounting debt due to several months of nonpayment.

Nationally, a new report by Carbon Switch found that after October 1, over 76 million households are subject to utility shutoffs, with many of these households already in poverty or still unemployed. [5] And as with other environmental and energy issues, the burden will also fall disproportionately on minority and low-income families. Reports have found that Black families, for example, already paid more for energy than white families before COVID-19, [6] making it even more unlikely that bills can be paid and the power left on.


[1] Map of Disconnection Moratoria, Nat’l Ass’n of Regulatory Util. Comm’rs, https://www.naruc.org/compilation-of-covid-19-news-resources/state-response-tracker/ (last visited Aug. 27, 2020).

[2] Final Order, In the Matter of Moratorium on Disconnection of Utility Services during the Public Health Emergency Declared on March 9, 2020 pursuant to Sections 4 and 7 of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act, (No. 20-0309), https://www.icc.illinois.gov/docket/P2020-0309/documents/300566.

[3] Id. at 3 (calculated with Illinois’s phase 4 attainment date of June 26, 2020).

[4] See, e.g., Bill Payment Assistance, ComEd, https://www.comed.com/MyAccount/CustomerSupport/Pages/BillPaymentAssistance.aspx (last visited Aug. 27, 2020).

[5] Michael Thomas, Millions of Americans Could Lose Their Electricity as Shutoff Moratoriums Expire (2020), https://carbonswitch.co/energy-insecurity-and-covid-19/.

[6] See, e.g., Eva Lyubich, The Race Gap in Residential Energy Expenditures (June 2020), https://haas.berkeley.edu/wp-content/uploads/WP306.pdf.

We’re back!

Hello and welcome to the 2020-21 edition of JEEL’s blog. We provide regular updates on significant developments in environmental and energy law and policy on a local, regional, national, and, at times, international level. JEEL’s team of Associate Research Editors (AREs) will cover everything from utilities and energy generation to land conservation to air and water litigation, and much more.

As always, our mission is to provide non-partisan information and analysis on the key environmental and energy law and policy topics of the day. We will remain vigilant in fulfilling that mission; posts expressing a particular viewpoint will be clearly labeled as “opinion.”

Please join me in welcoming this year’s team of AREs, whose diverse backgrounds and experiences will provide the blog with a valuable swath of insights on the environmental and energy topics of the day. They include:

Hannah Bucher
Andrea Jakubas
Fernando Silva
Sydney Weiss
Sylvia Wolak

Sincerely,

Joe Popely
Research Editor

[NEWS] Judge Voids Oil and Gas Leases on Almost One Million Acres of Land

Judge Voids Oil and Gas Leases on Almost One Million Acres of Land

The Western Watersheds Project and the Center of Biological Diversity brought suit against the United States Bureau of Land Management for the unlawful restriction of public participation in oil and gas leases that affect large areas of public land across the Western United States.[1] On February 27, 2020, a federal district judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and voided the oil and gas leases on federal lands for unlawful restriction of public participation.[2]

“More than [one] billion barrels of oil were produced from drilling offshore and on public land” under the Trump administration in 2019.[3] The oil and gas leases span across sixty-seven million acres of land across eleven states.[4] While the Trump administration expanded domestic energy production, it implemented measures to curve public participation.[5] “A centerpiece of this effort has been the administration’s efforts to silence the public and local communities,” said Chase Huntley, director of the Wilderness Society’s climate and energy program. Chief Magistrate Judge Ronald E. Bush ruled in favor of the Western Watersheds Project and the Center of Biological Diversity.[6] Judge Bush rejected the oil and gas leases and mandated that the Bureau of Land Management alter its procedure for oil and gas leases “that are wholly or partially within sage grouse habitat management areas.”[7]

Environmental groups see this ruling as a victory. Taylor McKinnon, senior campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement, “The judge confirmed that it’s illegal to silence the public to expand fossil fuel extraction. It’s a win for millions of acres of our beautiful public lands and a major blow to the Trump administration’s corrupt efforts to serve corporate polluters.”[8]

The Bureau of Land Management maintains that it “[has] been working within [its] legal authorities to alleviate or eliminate unnecessary and burdensome regulations, while at the same time upholding public health and environmental protections . . .” and remains “committed to a simpler, more effective leasing process,” according to Derrick Henry, spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management.[9]

*Featured Image: Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society

[1] Juliet Eilperin and Darryl Fears, Judge voids nearly 1 million acres of oil and gas leases, saying Trump policy undercut public input, The Washington Post (February 28, 2020), https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2020/02/27/judge-voids-nearly-1-million-acres-oil-gas-leases-saying-trump-policy-undercut-public-input/ (last visited February 29, 2020).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Rachel Frazin, Judge voids oil and gas leases on almost 1 million acres of public lands, The Hill (February 28, 2020), https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/485133-judge-voids-almost-1-million-acres-of-oil-and-gas-leases-on-public (last visited February 29, 2020).

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[NEWS] Chicago’s Little Village Residents Renew Call for Environmental Revitalization Plan

Chicago’s Little Village Residents Renew Call for Environmental Revitalization Plan

Residents of Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood are renewing calls for a neighborhood revitalization plan that addresses their environmental concerns.  Little Village, located on Chicago’s southwest side, is the former site of a coal plant that closed in 2012.[1]  Following the closure of the plant, the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) spearheaded an effort to transition the site into recreational, open space, and economic development assets that serve the needs of the community.[2]  Those efforts culminated in a set of draft guidelines released by the City’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) in January 2019.[3]

The guidelines framed an effort to improve economic and environmental conditions in the area, including a plan to integrate on-site renewable energy, increased landscaping, and encourage the use of alternative fuel vehicles for industrial operations in the neighborhood.[4] However, residents felt the plan did not go far enough to address their environmental concerns, and prioritized continued industry development in the neighborhood.[5] Progress on the environmental revitalization efforts stalled soon after the draft guidelines were released.[6]

The owner of the former coal plant site, Hilco Redevelopment Partners, intends to turn the site into a one‑million‑square‑foot warehouse.[7]  LVEJO members hosted a press conference at City Hall on February 26, 2020 to voice their opposition to the plan.  LVEJO, joined by representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Warehouse Workers for Justice, and the Union of Concerned Scientists called on the DPD to resume efforts to modernize the neighborhood by increasing environmental regulations on current and future industrial operators in the area, continuously monitoring air pollution levels, and performing a traffic study every five years.[8]  Following the press conference, LVEJO expressed their hope that Hilco and DPD will engage Little Village residents in crafting environmentally equitable solutions that benefit the community as a whole.[9]

*Featured Image: LVEJO 

[1] Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Coal Power Plant Shutdown, http://www.lvejo.org/our-accomplishments/coal-plant-shutdown/ (last visited Feb. 29, 2020).

[2] Id.

[3] City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development, Mayor Emanuel’s Industrial Corridor Modernization Little Village Framework, Draft for Public Comment (January 2019), https://www.chicago.gov/content/dam/city/depts/zlup/Planning_and_Policy/Publications/draft-little-village-framework.pdf.

[4] Id., p. 2.

[5] Mauricio Peña, Environmental Groups Call On City To Regulate Polluters By Relaunching Little Village Modernization Plan, Block Club Chicago (Feb. 27, 2020), available at https://blockclubchicago.org/2020/02/27/environmental-groups-call-on-city-to-regulate-polluters-by-relaunching-little-village-industrial-corridor-modernization-plan/.

[6] Kari Lyderson, Chicagoans demand answers, input and oversight for former coal plant site, Energy News Network (Feb. 27, 2020), available at https://energynews.us/2020/02/27/midwest/chicagoans-demand-answers-input-and-oversight-for-former-coal-plant-site/.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Peña, supra note 5.

[NEWS] January 2020, Warmest in Recorded History

January 2020, Warmest in Recorded History

On February 13, 2020, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the planet experienced its hottest January in recorded history.[1] This is not likely to be the last record of its kind.[2] January 2020 marks the 44th consecutive January and the 421st consecutive month with temperatures above the twentieth century average.[3]

The average January temperature across land and ocean surfaces increased by 2.05 degrees Fahrenheit from the twentieth century average of 53.6 degrees Fahrenheit.[4] Previously, record-high temperatures occurred when El Niño was present in the Pacific Ocean.[5] El Niño temporarily heats the earth naturally.[6] However, with no El Niño present this year, we achieved these record-high temperatures all on our own.[7] Scientists attribute these record-high temperatures as “greenhouse gas-induced warming” producing global temperature rises.[8]

These rising global temperatures are here to stay.[9] According to statistical analysis by the NOAA, 2020 is already on track to be one of the five warmest years on record.[10]

*Featured Image: NOAA

[1] John Bateman, January 2020 was Earth’s hottest January on record, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (February 13, 2020), https://www.noaa.gov/news/january-2020-was-earth-s-hottest-january-on-record (last visited February 15, 2020).

[2] See id.

[3] Id.

[4] Denise Chow, Earth just had its hottest January in recorded history, NBC (February 13, 2020), https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/earth-just-had-its-hottest-january-recorded-history-n1136426 (last visited February 15, 2020).

[5] Hannah Levy and Brandon Miller, In 141 years of record-keeping, there has never been a warmer January, CNN (February 13, 2020), https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/13/weather/warmest-january-noaa-climate-trnd/index.html (last visited February 16, 2020).

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[NEWS] Chicago Considers Forming its Own Electric Utility Company

Chicago Considers Forming its Own Electric Utility Company

Chicago is considering ending its 30-year franchise agreement with Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd), the City’s incumbent utility provider.  The City is exploring the possibility of forming an electric utility company that would be owned, operated, and managed by the City.[1]  This process, known as municipalization, allows a local government to purchase the infrastructure and distribution assets of an incumbent utility provider in order to operate and maintain the system.

Illinois law includes a provision that permits local governments to exercise the right to acquire, construct, own, and operate a public utility.[2]  Presently, 32 municipalities in Illinois, including Naperville and Winnetka, operate their own municipal electric utility.[3]  However, the prospect of Chicago parting ways with ComEd is significant given that over 3 million of ComEd’s 4 million customers reside in Chicago.[4]  For this reason, it is likely that acquiring ComEd’s infrastructure would be expensive—ComEd believes that the value of their system could be as much as $10 billion.[5]

Chicago is the latest in a series of large cities considering municipalization.  Following Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s (PG&E) Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing and the devastating wildfires in their service territory, San Francisco offered PG&E $2.5 billion to acquire the company’s electric infrastructure.[6]  Boulder, Colorado is making progress towards its municipalization goals, but the process was caught up in a years-long litigation battle with the region’s incumbent utility provider, Xcel Energy, which raised a number of legal questions like the legality of Boulder’s plan, the cost of financing a new system, and the acquisition or condemnation of Xcel’s distribution assets.[7]

Against a backdrop of a federal corruption probe into ComEd’s lobbying efforts and a growing demand for cleaner sources of energy as well as more equitably priced utility bills, the idea of a municipal utility provider is gaining more traction.[8]  Though, this is not the first time that City leaders considered the idea of municipalization.  In July 2019, First Ward Alderman Daniel La Spata, with the support of 21 additional cosponsors, introduced a measure to perform a feasibility study investigating the cost of acquiring ComEd’s assets and the costs of running a municipal utility.[9] The measure did not pass at the council meeting, but at a subsequent meeting in October 2019, Twelfth Ward Alderman George Cardenas confirmed that the feasibility study was underway and anticipated the results being released in the coming months.[10]

*Feature Image: Wikimedia

[1] Becky Veavea, What if the City of Chicago Ran its Own Electric Utility?, NPR (Feb. 10, 2020), available at https://www.npr.org/local/309/2020/02/10/804480819/what-if-the-city-of-chicago-ran-its-own-electric-utility.

[2] 65 ILCS 5/11-117-1 (2019).

[3] Illinois Municipal Electric Agency, Members of IMEA, http://www.imea.org/Members.aspx (last visited Feb. 16, 2019).

[4] Veavea, supra note 1.

[5] Veavea, supra note 1.

[6] Sonja Hutson, San Francisco Offers to Buy PG&E Electric Grid in the City for $2.5 Billion, KQED (Sept. 8, 2019), available at https://www.kqed.org/news/11773007/san-francisco-offers-to-buy-pge-electric-grid-in-the-city-for-2-5-billion.

[7] Robert Walton, Colorado authorizes transfer of Xcel assets to Boulder, boosting city’s municipalization efforts, Utility Dive (Oct. 11, 2019), available at https://www.utilitydive.com/news/colorado-authorizes-transfer-of-xcel-assets-to-boulder-boosting-citys-mun/564843/.

[8] Veavea, supra note 1.

[9] Press Release, Democratize ComEd, Democratize ComEd Campaign Calls for Public Feasibility Study (Nov. 15, 2019), available at https://demcomed.org/assets/press_releases/DemComEd_11_15_19_Press_Release.pdf.

[10] Id.

[NEWS 11/24/2019] #FRIDAYSForFUTURE, Chicago Nov. 29, 2019

In Chicago, a group of local activists is joining the global FridaysForFuture movement by striking on Friday, November 29, 2019. The Deepstrike will take place at Daley Plaza, 50 W Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602. The Strike will last from 11:00am til 2:00pm. The organizers provided the following instructions:

  • Wear black this #BlackFriday as we mourn the burning of the Amazon
  • Bring old clothes for clothing swap
  • Bring signs and posters if you have them
  • Share pictures from the Strike
  • Please tag #FridaysForFuture and #ClimateStrike on social media posts.

The official event page for the Strike can be found here.

According to #FRIDAYSForFUTURE’s website:

#FridaysForFuture is a movement that began in August 2018, after 15 years old Greta Thunberg sat in front of the Swedish parliament every school day for three weeks, to protest against the lack of action on the climate crisis. She posted what she was doing on Instagram and Twitter and it soon went viral.

On the 8th of September, Greta decided to continue striking every Friday until the Swedish policies provided a safe pathway well under 2-degree C, i.e. in line with the Paris agreement.

The hashtags #FridaysForFuture and #Climatestrike spread and many students and adults began to protest outside of their parliaments and local city halls all over the world. This has also inspired the Belgium Thursday school strikes.

The popularity of the youth driven movement has rapidly increased in the 14 months since Greta Thunberg first sat in front of parliament.  To date, 60 thousand climate strike events, in 6.4 thousand cities across 222 countries, have attracted more than 11 million strikers.

*Featured Image: Chicago Tribune, Sep. 20, 2019, Getty Images

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