With the recently announced the closure of two nuclear facilities — the Clinton Power Station and the Quad Cities Generating Station — and the reduction demands of the Clean Power Plan, Illinois faces a 22 percent energy shortfall by 2030.

However, Illinois has an opportunity to ramp up natural gas infrastructure to meet the Clean Power Plan goals and energy needs. Currently, Illinois uses natural gas for a mere 6 percent of its power production. Natural gas expansion would, in fact, cover 100 percent of Illinois’ clean energy requirements under the CPP. Even converting just half of its current high-carbon power supply to natural gas would meet 60 percent of that goal, reducing carbon emissions by 18 million tons.

While activists have voiced concerns about the safety of natural gas infrastructure, evidence shows that pipelines are by far the safest way to transport fuels. With a safe and skilled workforce and responsible contractors, natural gas infrastructure can be built in a way that preserves the environment. LIUNA members and our fellow tradesmen and women have been safely building pipelines for more than a century. Each year, LIUNA and the Building Trades Unions invest in training hundreds of thousands of workers at training centers nationwide which offer accredited, hands-on training and certifications, including pipeline specific instruction.

Given the looming energy deficit and the high cost, renewable infrastructure can’t fully shoulder the load. Solar panels would have to cover the entire city of Chicago at a cost of approximately $90 billion to meet needs. Natural gas infrastructure can help as renewable technology matures.

The good news is Illinois is starting to invest in the cleaner energy future with natural gas built by skilled members of the building trades. The CPV Three Rivers Energy Center is slated to break ground in Grundy County in 2018 and to activate in 2021. Through this project, the Dakota Access Pipeline and similar projects, Illinois can realize economic benefits, make progress on clean energy targets and create thousands of good jobs.

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