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This Earth Day, Gov. Pritzker Signs Executive Orders To Keep People's Utilities From Being Cut Off, Move State Government Toward Using Low- Or Zero-Emission Vehicles

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker on Thursday signed two executive orders related to climate and consumers for Earth Day.

The Governor's office said the orders pave the way for a new state Utility Disconnection Avoidance Program to provide $80 million in assistance for households to avoid disconnections, and a State Fleet Working Group that will push toward low- and zero-emission vehicles for purchase and lease by state government.

The Governor's office noted that Illinois is a member of the U.S. Climate Alliance and is working to meet Paris Climate Agreement targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 to 28 percent by 2025.

"The urgent need to address climate change, revitalize our state, and create jobs means that now is the time to transition to a clean energy economy, and this Earth Day, I'm taking action to protect our residents and the environment," Pritzker said in a news release. "By expanding assistance for Illinois utility customers, we're making a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of customers at risk for disconnection right now – and by redirecting Illinois' fleet of vehicles to prioritize low-emission and zero-emission vehicles, we're setting the next generation of residents up for a better future. My administration is committed to making Illinois a leader in a clean energy and an equitable economy, and I'm proud to take another step toward fulfilling that mission."

One of the executive orders Pritzker signed on Thursday was Executive Order 2021-07, which suspends two elements of the Illinois Clean Energy Act to as to expand the use for emergency relief dollars for Illinois utility customers at risk of having their service disconnected. There had been a moratorium on disconnections this past winter, but it is now over.

In addition to paving the way for the Utility Disconnection Avoidance Program, the expanded measures will grant billing relief to almost 80,000 current and former Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, customers, the Governor's office said.

Illinois residents eligible for the disconnection assistance program may receive a onetime credit of at least $250 and up to $5,000 for each eligible utility account. Families that are eligible include those who are currently on a utility disconnection list due to missed payments, and those who received or will receive energy bill assistance from the state between Oct. 1, 2018, and June 30, 2021.

The state's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will start working with utility companies – ComEd, Ameren, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas, North Shore Gas, and MidAmerican Energy – as well as local agencies, to process invoices and give credits to customers as soon as next month.

Pritzker on Thursday also signed Executive Order 2021-08, which will ensure vehicles purchased or leased by the state will be low- or zero-emission to the greatest extent possible. The order establishes a State Fleet Working Group that will work to procure and encourage the use of electric vehicles for state employees, as well as for the general public.

There will also be a plan set up to install electric vehicle chargers on state property for state employee and public use, using funds from the Rebuild Illinois capital plan.

The Illinois State Board of Education will also be involved, working with the state's Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency to provide information about low-emission school buses.

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