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Clean energy bill passes, Byron nuclear power plant saved

The bill gives Exelon a $694 million bailout to save the state’s nuclear fleet, which is an important player in the clean energy environment.
Illinois lawmakers pass clean energy legislation
Illinois lawmakers pass clean energy legislation(WIFR)
Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 4:49 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WIFR) - The Illinois Senate passed a landmark clean energy plan Monday saving thousands of nuclear jobs that were on the line.

The Senate returned to Springfield Sept. 13 and voted 37-17 on Senate Bill 2408 to approve the latest clean energy proposal on the same day the Byron nuclear plant went offline. The bill gives Exelon a $694 million bailout to save the state’s nuclear fleet, which is an important player in the clean energy environment. While Republicans argue Democrats completely ignored downstate communities, sponsors say they’re investing in 16 clean energy job hubs across the same regions. The plan will also save thousands of jobs at the Byron and Dresden nuclear plants.

The plan closes private coal plants by 2030 and facilities owned by local governments must close by 2045. Prairie State in Marissa and Springfield’s City Water, Light & Power (CWLP) must reduce 45% of their carbon emissions by 2035. However, the plants have until 2038 to reach that target or they will have to retire one of their generating towers.

Many knew this vote meant much more to nuclear employees worried they wouldn’t have a job tomorrow.

“To the mom in Rockford who asked, ‘Do I need to put my house up for sale?’ The answer is no. You can keep your job. You’re still going to have a great paying job, your kids are going to get to go to the same school.” said Sen. Mike Hastings (D-Tinley Park).

Only two Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the plan. Senator Sue Rezin represents the nuclear plant near Morris and stayed close to negotiations to help save the nuclear jobs.

State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) released the following statement following the bill’s passage:

“Thousands of people across the state rely on power plants for their livelihoods, including many employees at the Byron nuclear plant on Rockford’s back doorstep. As we make the transition to green energy, we have to make sure these Illinoisans aren’t left in the dark. I’m proud to support an energy transition plan that prioritizes economic stability for our working families in the long term, protecting existing jobs while training our labor force to seize the opportunities of the future of energy. Illinois is now on the path toward an independent and prosperous power generation industry that values the people at Byron Generating Station and across the state who go to work every day to keep our lights on.”

State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Cherry Valley) voted against the plan and issued the following statement about the bill’s passage:

“While I wish I could have supported this bill to save the Byron Nuclear Plant, the fact is this energy package does more harm to the people of this state than it does to protect them. The Governor and his allies have created a no-win situation with this energy proposal, holding Byron and other nuclear facilities hostage. Under this proposal, the only way Bryon was to be allowed to remain open was if lawmakers supported the largest utility rate increase in Illinois history and awarded massive subsidies to wind and solar energy companies. Yet, even then, Byron will only remain open until 2028. For the past two years, we have tried to find a compromise that recognized the importance of Illinois’ nuclear fleet while also supporting wind and solar companies. But we’ve been ignored. Instead, we are left with a bill that will accelerate job loss, undercut Illinoisan’s energy reliability with no viable replacements, and bolster the economies of our neighboring states to the detriment of hardworking Illinoisans. The damage will be irreversible. This proposal could have helped safeguard the future of our state’s nuclear presence, but the Majority Party prioritized bailouts and subsidies over what was best for Illinois homeowners and job creators. I’m disappointed that I could not support this energy package, but this proposal was merely a Band-Aid fix for Byron with permanent consequences for ratepayers and businesses.”

The energy plan now heads to Governor Pritzker’s desk for final approval. Gov. Pritzker intends to sign that bill as soon as possible. His office released the following statement:

“Today, with the Senate passage of SB 2408, the State of Illinois is making history by setting aggressive standards for a 100 percent clean energy future. After years of debate and discussion, science has prevailed, and we are charting a new future that works to mitigate the impacts of climate change here in Illinois. SB 2408 puts the state on a path toward 100% clean energy and invests in training a diverse workforce for the jobs of the future. Illinois will become the best state in the nation to manufacture and drive an electric vehicle, and equity will be prioritized in every new program created. SB2408 puts consumers and climate at the forefront, prioritizing meaningful ethics and transparency reforms, and institutes key ratepayer and residential customer protections. I’d like to thank Leaders Cunningham and Hastings and Sen. Villanueva for the many hours spent in working group meetings and negotiating sessions. I am proud of the collaborative work between stakeholders, Senate President Don Harmon and Speaker Welch that resulted in a package that makes meaningful progress in protecting our climate and consumers. I look forward to signing this historic measure into law as soon as possible, because our planet and the people of Illinois ought not wait any longer.”

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