The state's environmental regulatory body was prevented from taking measures to address greenhouse gases in Illinois for more than 20 years.
That might soon end after the Senate voted Thursday on a bill led by Sen. Laura Ellman, a Democrat from Naperville, to repeal a law enacted in 1998 that blocked the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Pollution Control Board from introducing or ratifying rules comparable to those adopted at an international conference in Kyoto, Japan, in the late 1990s.
The Clinton administration agreed to participate in the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement intended to reduce greenhouse gases in order to slow the onset of global warming.
The U.S. Senate, however, never ratified the nation's participation.
But in 1998, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Kyoto Protocol Act, which specifically blocked the state from imposing climate-related standards for residential, commercial, industrial, electric utility and transportation industries.
"This (1998 law) is basically, you can consider it a gag rule for Illinois. This prevents us as a state from proposing or doing anything as far as greenhouse gases," Ellman said. "It doesn't change the way that we have to comply with federal law at all."
Ellman was the lead sponsor on the bill to repeal the 1998 act, which was intended to prevent Illinois from taking any environmental control measures it was not mandated to do by the federal EPA.
Republican Sen. Jason Plummer, from Edwardsville, expressed concern during floor debate Thursday that freeing Illinois' environmental regulatory agency to enact rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions might negatively impact state industries and the economy.
"The state can eventually enact new regulations on our power industry, which right now is 40 percent fossil fuel-based, and we have serious concerns about the direction that could take for our consumers," Plummer said. "Right now, the state of Illinois needs to explore every source (of energy) it can, but by allowing the IEPA to come and set new standards, it's going to have a significant impact on our power supply for communities, especially in downstate Illinois."
Senate Bill 2140 passed the Senate by a party-line vote of 36-16. The measure arrived Thursday in the House and has been taken up by Rep. Robyn Gabel, a Democrat from Evanston.