BACK OF THE YARDS — Getting union presidents, energy company CEOs, construction guys, the mayor, pastors and environmental policy wonks in the same room isn't easy.
The groups on Wednesday announced the creation of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, an umbrella group of 59 organizations and businesses that will push Springfield lawmakers to pass better standards for energy efficiency and increase the state's reliance on renewable energy from sources like wind and solar power.
"We're on the doorstep of a unique opportunity that doesn't come around very often. ... We need to get our act together as a state," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.
The group's main goals are to increase the state's share of power coming from renewable sources to 35 percent by 2030 — up from the current standard of 25 percent by 2025 — and to reduce electricity use in Illinois by 20 percent by 2025, a 50 percent savings increase based on current trends, officials said.
Reducing the state's carbon footprint is also another major goal.
Taken together, the standards would create an estimated 32,000 new clean energy jobs annually in Illinois and would result in 5,000 annual jobs in Chicago, officials said.
Jim Buchanan, president of the Pipefitters Local 597, said his union supports the coalition for three reasons: "Jobs, jobs, jobs."
"Supply chain members of the trades are building wind turbines, solar panels and new generation control systems. We believe clean energy jobs can grow at an even faster rate in Illinois" if new standards were adopted statewide, he said.
Wednesday's announcement was made at Testa Produce, a vast warehouse and distribution facility in the Stockyards Industrial Complex that's consistently lauded for it green innovations.
Testa has the city’s only freestanding wind turbine, completed just before the company’s 2011 move into Back of the Yards. It's only one of the produce distributors environmentally conscious features — there's a long list that includes a "vegetated" roof to absorb rainwater, solar panels to power the building and heat some of its water, and a fleet of biodiesel, natural gas and pure-electric delivery trucks.
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