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How The Federal Climate Bill Could Impact Proviso Suburbs

Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey signs a Cross-Community Climate Collaborative (C4) memorandum of understanding on June 23 at Triton College. Oak Park Mayor Vicki Scaman, Broadview Mayor Katrina Thompson and Darnell Johnson, the president of Urban Efficiency Group, look on. 

Monday, August 8, 2022 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

If it passes, the federal climate bill, which as of Aug. 7 was making its way through the U.S. Congress, could have a direct impact on a variety of climate measures in Proviso Township, particularly efforts by several communities to electrify their municipal fleets and promote solar energy usage.

The bill, called the “Inflation Reduction Act,” calls for $369 billion in spending on “nearly every segment of the energy sector, including wind, solar, hydrogen, carbon capture, and oil and gas,” according to a summary of the bill by Energy Wire.

“The deal is packed with incentives to boost low-carbon technologies, including delivering tax code reforms sought for years by renewable industries, chief among them a 10-year extension of wind and solar’s tax credits,” Energy Wire reports.

“It would also offer new tax credits for domestic manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbine parts and other key equipment for growth of renewables. Energy storage projects sited separately from renewable generation would also take advantage of a new investment tax credit.”

A chunk of the bill includes a variety of federal tax credits designed to encourage consumer spending on low-carbon products and to reduce energy consumption.

The bill would extend an existing $7,500 tax credit for purchasing a new electric vehicle (EV) and an existing $4,000 tax credit for buying a used EV.

According to the New York Times, the bill would also “invest over $60 billion to support low-income communities and communities of color that are disproportionately burdened by effects of climate change.

“This includes grants for zero-emissions technology and vehicles, as well as money to mitigate the negative effects of highways, bus depots and other transportation facilities.”

News of the federal climate proposal comes weeks after mayors across Proviso Township and the west suburbs announced the formation of the Cross-Community Climate Collaborative (C4).

On June 23, roughly a dozen mayors gathered at Triton College in River Grove to sign a memorandum of understanding signaling their commitment to joining C4.

The new initiative — which was spearheaded by Broadview Mayor Katrina Thompson, Oak Park Village President Vicki Scaman and River Forest President Cathy Adduci — puts participating suburbs on the hook for achieving a 100% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

As of the end of June, at least 14 west suburbs had joined C4, which is a voluntary association and doesn’t cost suburbs anything to participate.

The C4 commitments include participation in monthly ‘cross-community’ team meetings, the establishment of a sustainability working group or commission, and raising awareness about the C4 initiative, among other responsibilities.

Village officials across Proviso Township have signaled that the first steps in their efforts to reduce emissions will be to electrify municipal fleets and to grow solar energy usage.

Broadview has been looking at installing EV charging stations in each of its six newly renovated parking lots along Roosevelt Road. The village is also exploring the feasibility of transitioning its municipal fleet from gas to EV vehicles, Matt Ames, the village’s public works director, said in March.

The village of Westchester’s GROW Ecological Commission has also explored acquiring EV vehicles for the village’s municipal fleet. In June, the commission indicated that the Westchester Police Department is vetting the acquisition of an all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E, which would qualify for federal tax credits.

During that June 23 ceremony, ComEd officials announced that the utility is investing in a program designed to help communities adopt EVs.

Michael Fountain, ComEd’s vice president of governmental affairs, said the utility is putting $225,000 into a program that allows qualifying suburbs in northern Illinois to join the first cohort of ComEd’s EV Reading Program this fall.

By participating, he said, suburbs can be prepared “to access federal and state funding that can be used to develop EV infrastructure.”

ComEd is collaborating with the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus on the EV Readiness Program. In a joint statement released in May, ComEd and the Caucus said the participating governments will also “receive support on how to remove barriers to adoption, facilitate charging infrastructure, and expand markets for EVs.

“Municipalities and counties will earn designation as an EV Ready Community based on actions taken in several categories to influence EV adoption and deployment of EV charging infrastructure – including,” zoning and planning, new construction and permitting, among others.

In addition to the EV Readiness Program, ComEd, whose area operations for Proviso and other west suburbs is based in Maywood, announced in July its plan to “provide $100 million per year in incentives, education and infrastructure support to remove barriers to electrification and deliver significant environmental and air quality improvements for communities.”

The plan includes “$15 million annually in incentives that will reduce upfront costs related to purchase and installation of EVs, in-home charging stations, and non-transportation electrification equipment (such as building heating and cooling, lawn equipment, electric stoves, etc.).”

Proviso suburbs have also recently made inroads into solar energy adoption.

In March, Broadview and Northlake were among 10 Chicago area suburbs that achieved the national SolSmart designation, which is designed to reduce barriers to solar energy use by homeowners and businesses.

To earn the designation, the two villages were required to make solar-friendly changes to their permitting and zoning processes.

In February, Broadview’s village board voted in favor of a solar energy ordinance that would establish local standards related to installing solar panels in the village. That month, the village also launched the Broadview Renewable Energy Business Coalition, a coalition of businesses and nonprofits that encourages the adoption of renewable energy.

The measures are part of the larger Broadview Alliance for Sustainability, which is designed to put the village on “a clear trajectory towards carbon neutrality and net positive energy, water, and waste,” according to the Alliance’s web page, which includes a solar permitting checklist for residents and businesses.

If passed, the Inflation Reduction Act could be a boon to those local efforts to get residents and businesses to adopt solar energy.

“Tax credits in the bill will cover 30% of the cost of buying a rooftop solar system and home battery storage,” CNN reported. “The average cost of a rooftop solar system is around $20,000, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. But that upfront cost will result in energy bill savings every year and add value to a home.”

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