COURT RULING ALLOWS PROJECTS TO PROCEED
Plans to build and update roads, bridges, schools and other state-owned facilities can now move forward, keeping Illinois competitive in the national and worldwide marketplace.
The Illinois Supreme Court announced July 11 it had upheld the constitutionality of a law passed in 2009 to fund the state’s multi-billion dollar infrastructure improvement program.
The capital plan was the product of bipartisan negotiations in 2009 that resulted in a $31 billion proposal to invest in Illinois infrastructure.
The ruling came in the case of W. Rockwell Wirtz et al., Appellees, vs. Patrick Quinn, Governor, et al., Appellants. A lower court had held that House Bill 255, the major funding source for the construction program, violated the state constitution’s requirement that all legislation deal with a single subject. The Supreme Court reversed that ruling, finding the measure constitutional.
STREAMLINED EPA PERMITS
Another bill intended to assist Illinois businesses was signed into law during the week. The culmination of months of negotiations between the state and the business community, House Bill 1297/PA 97-0095 will increase efficiency in the state’s environmental permitting process at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA).
Employers claimed that Illinois’ slow permitting process discouraged them from expanding their Illinois-based businesses. House Bill 1297 requires the EPA to simplify the process the state uses to consider environmental permits, which will increase the speed with which the permits are issued. This will allow businesses to more rapidly begin hiring and production.
NEW LAW ALLOWS CHICAGO-AREA GAS PLANT
Legislation (SB 1533/PA 97-0096) was also approved that allows for the establishment of a $3 billion, state-of-the-art, Chicago-area coal-to-synthetic gas plant. The plant’s builder, Leucadia Corp., plans to convert as much as 3.2 million tons of Illinois coal and petroleum coke each year into natural gas using a low-emission, environmentally-friendly “gasification” technique.
The project is expected to create approximately 1,000 construction jobs and 200 permanent positions. Proponents of the legislation insist the project is a more environmentally responsible way to create energy. They also praised the project for converting a currently underutilized, heavily polluted site into an economically productive, job-creating, tax-producing property.
However, despite assurances that the coal-to-synthetic gas plant is a “clean” technique, opponents still worry that the facility’s emissions will further compromise an already polluted area. And though the measure contains provisions to ensure customers won’t see their natural gas bills climb more than two percent each year, some people challenge the customer protection provisions, saying that the new law will burden consumers with costly natural gas for years to come.