WATERLOO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed a law to expand the use of cleaner, alternative fuels to benefit the environment, farmers and Illinois drivers. House Bill 931 will now allow rebates for drivers using fuels with a minimum 20 percent biodiesel blend. Until today, only 80 percent or higher biodiesel fuel blends had been eligible, and most diesel vehicles cannot use 80 percent blends without major modifications.
“I am proud that Illinois is a national leader in the production and use of cleaner-burning fuels like biodiesel made from soybean oil. Today’s action expands our commitment to increasing reliance on Illinois’ homegrown, renewable fuels,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Biodiesel is good for Illinois’ environment and farmers, and expanding the incentives program is good for those who buy and sell these greener, Illinois fuels. Looking ahead, we are adding hydrogen to our list of alternative fuels as we anticipate more hydrogen vehicles on our roads in the future.”
“Making 20 percent or higher biodiesel fuel blends eligible for Illinois EPA rebates is another important step by the General Assembly and the Governor and another reason why Illinois is a leader in producing and using alternative fuels,” said bill sponsor Sen. Deanna Demuzio (D-Carlinville).
“Alternative fuels are cleaner, greener and becoming more affordable. Expanding their use now provides economic, environmental and energy benefits for Illinois today,” said Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg), the House sponsor.
Under the current Illinois EPA program, there are three types of rebates designed to reimburse consumers for the additional costs of:
· purchasing an alternate fuel vehicle;
· converting a vehicle to run on an alternate fuel, and
· consistently using an alternate fuel instead of gasoline or diesel.
The maximum amount for any rebate is $4,000 per vehicle and may vary by fuel. The eligible fuels include biodiesel (B20 and higher blends), E-85, natural gas, propane, and hydrogen, a new addition. The expanded alternative fuels program will be funded with existing appropriations from the Alternate Fuels Fund. The bill goes into effect immediately.
Gov. Blagojevich’s support of House Bill 931 is consistent with numerous other steps he has taken in just over two years to advance the ethanol and biodiesel industry in Illinois, including:
· Announcing $1 million in Opportunity Returns funding for the National Corn to Ethanol Research Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to support the center’s role in technological innovation to continue to reduce the costs of ethanol production;
· Announcing $500,000 in Opportunity Returns funding to increase access to E-85, an advanced hybrid of ethanol, and allow more gas station operators to offer the 85 percent ethanol fuel;
· Providing $4.8 million to the Lincolnland Agri-Energy Ethanol plant in Palestine, to help the plant succeed in closing on private financing for the project - the plant is now producing more than 40 million gallons of ethanol per year;
· Signing an Executive Order requiring increased use of both ethanol and biodiesel by state employees, similar to the measure included in the federal proposal;
· Signing legislation in 2003 to eliminate the state sales tax on E-85, allowing the fuel to retail for 10 to 15 cents per gallon cheaper than regular unleaded gasoline, and eliminating the state sales tax on biodiesel blends of 11% and higher (“B11”).
The Governor today also signed legislation to help the Illinois Soybean Association operate more efficiently and effectively. Sponsored by Rep. Dan Reitz (D-Sparta) and Sen. John Sullivan (D-Quincy), House Bill 601 amends the Soybean Marketing Act and will result in the consolidation of two separate boards serving soybean producers into one. This will cut out repetitive practices and help the board better serve its constituents
Currently, the two boards have a total of 37 members, 18 on one and 19 on the other. The new board will operate as "The Illinois Soybean Association" and will be comprised of 1 member from each of 18 geographic districts and 6 elected "at large" for a total of 24 on the combined board. The new structure assures geographic representation throughout the state and is expected to create savings and make better use of the volunteer board’s time. The bill goes into effect on January 1, 2006.
“More soybeans are grown and harvested in Illinois than in any other state so it is our responsibility to protect the interests of the producers in every way we can,” said bill sponsor Sen. Sullivan.
Gov. Blagojevich also signed a bill today that will make the sale of pesticides safer. Current law only regulates the most dangerous and toxic types of pesticides. Sponsored by Rep. Reitz and Sen. Demuzio, House Bill 295 requires that all pesticides must be kept in a separate section of the store and must have at least one person trained in safe handling and proper storage. The bill amends the Illinois Pesticide Act to require registration with the Illinois Department of Agriculture for anyone selling general-use pesticides to produce an agricultural commodity. It applies to pesticides in containers holding at least 2.5 gallons or 10 pounds. The bill is effective on July 1st.
“It’s a safety issue,” said Rep. Reitz. “In the last several years, farm stores have started to carry larger quantities of pesticides. If handled improperly or if there is an accident, these pesticides can be harmful to both the handler and the environment. We want to ensure that bulk products are only in the hands of trained dealers for the safety of retail workers and customers.”