Tuesday, October 19 2021

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) – In a bipartisan vote Monday, the Illinois Senate passed a massive clean energy policy that sends a lifeline to nuclear power plants, sets a deadline for coal plants and natural gas and allows wind and solar companies to install power lines in lower counties.

By endorsing Governor JB Pritzker’s climate change agenda, the Illinois General Assembly grants the first-term Democrat a major political victory and sends him a bill he says he will sign as law.

“I look forward to signing this historic measure as soon as possible, because our planet and the people of Illinois should not wait any longer,” Pritzker said in a statement.

Exelon applauded the deal, which includes a $ 694 million bailout to keep its nuclear plants open. The Byron power plant was scheduled to be decommissioned today without state subsidies.

“Once the legislation is enacted, Exelon Generation will work to immediately fill hundreds of vacant positions and resume investment projects necessary for long-term operation,” said a spokesperson for the company.

Citizens Utility Board watchdogs analyzed the legislation and predicted that the average Illinois resident will pay an additional $ 3.51 in monthly electricity rates. The state will direct the bulk of these funds to building wind turbines and solar panels over the next 20 years. Combined with current investments, Senate Republicans have pegged the total price for state support for renewable energy at $ 18 billion over the next several decades. The plan includes $ 375 million in annual funding for Coal to Solar projects over the next 20 years, and spends $ 280.5 million on storage over the next decade.

Senator Doris Turner (D-Springfield) was one of three Senate Democrats who did not vote in favor of the proposal.

“I was concerned about the rate increases,” she said. With so many miscellaneous cost estimates and the question of grid reliability in Springfield if the City, Water, Light, and Power coal-fired power plant operated by the city went offline, she figured it was “better to err on the side of things. caution ”.

Senator Sue Rezin (R-Morris), one of two Republicans to back the plan in the upper house, called the deal “the biggest job creation bill I have voted on since. that I am in power ”.

Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) acknowledged that the Exelon bailout was inevitable, but presented it as a “lose-lose” proposition, and warned that “the results for our consumers and our creators of ‘jobs will be felt for years to come “.

In many ways, the state’s abandonment of coal is a sign of the times. Sporting the statue of a coal miner on the Capitol Lawn, a sculptor from Tinley Park, which happens to be the hometown of Bill’s sponsor State Senator, Senator Mike Hastings, wrote in 1964 that “The importance of a coal miner is vital, great and just”, and that without their work, “civilization would soon crumble to dust”.

But environmentalists have warned that the dangers of inhaling or choking pollution and dust particles from coal-fired power plants now outweigh the economic benefits of cheap energy.

“I lived and grew up in an environmental justice community,” said Senator Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago). “There was a cloud of dust by a developer who was actually trying to demolish a decommissioned power plant that I grew up with and saw from the second floor of my house.”

Villanueva has fought to prevent utility companies from turning off lights for people who fell behind during the pandemic. She said the decision to raise electricity rates “weighed very heavily” on her, but argued that the cost would come with an investment that will pay off in the long run.

Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) sponsored legislation to regulate the disposal of toxic coal ash.

“Most of Springfield is covered with abandoned mines, and that was the economy of yesteryear,” Bennett said. “I have school districts in my district, East Central Illinois, whose mascot was the Kilowatts.

“We enjoyed cheap energy when it was the best in technology,” Bennett said. “The problem is, there are byproducts, coal ash and other things that we now have to figure out how to clean up. And so what we don’t want is trading cheap energy today for our children’s future. Something’s a mess, they’re going to have to clean it up.

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