New Illinois Law Wipes Out Local Government Ability to Squash Renewables Projects

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Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has signed HB4412, which contains measures that protect Illinois-based clean energy projects from a growing number of local bans.

The bill prevents counties from enacting preemptive local ordinances that outright ban local wind and solar projects, which effectively hinders the state’s new climate goals set forth in the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA).

“We’ve seen an uptick in radical misinformation campaigns taking root here in Illinois that aim to obstruct the progress we have made in CEJA by banning local wind and solar clean energy projects,” says Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council. “Thanks to Gov. Pritzker signing this bill into law, our state can continue plugging away at the implementation of CEJA without having to play whack-a-mole every time fossil fuel interests introduce an ordinance intended to delay our clean energy future.”

With the enactment of HB4412, the state has removed overburdensome local wind and solar siting regulations while prioritizing protections for endangered species and natural areas and encouraging conservation practices at utility-scale clean energy sites.

Over a dozen local bans have passed in Illinois counties to date. HB4412 not only prevents future bans but now takes precedence over current bans, clearing the way for rapid clean energy development across the state.

“Illinoisans expect the General Assembly to anticipate problems and generate policy solutions that ensure the best outcomes for our communities, and HB4412 is a prime example of that work,” said State Sen. Bill Cunningham. “With this legislation, we’re bringing clean energy jobs and opportunities to people across Illinois.”

Among HB4412’s provisions:

  • Provides that there be at least one hearing during which public comment shall be taken regarding the application for siting approval or a special use permit for a commercial wind or solar energy facility;
  • Provides that the public hearing shall be conducted in accordance with the Open Meetings Act and shall be held not more than 45 days after the filing of an application for siting approval or a special use permit;
  • Provides that the county shall make its decision not more than 30 days after the conclusion of the public hearing;
  • Removes a provision that allows any part of a county zoning ordinance pertaining to wind farms that was in effect before August 16, 2007, to continue in effect notwithstanding the provision;
  • Provides that a county with an existing zoning ordinance in conflict with the provisions shall amend such zoning ordinance to be in compliance within 120 days after the effective date of the amendatory act;
  • Specifies setback requirements, restrictions on blade tip height, sound limitations, and other restrictions on and regulations for commercial wind and solar energy facilities;
  • Includes other provisions limiting a county’s ability to regulate commercial wind and solar energy facilities, and grants counties certain other powers in the regulation of such facilities.

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