With the end of the regular Illinois legislative session looming, supporters of an Exelon and ComEd energy proposal were at the State Capitol Tuesday to advocate for the measure.
Exelon workers and their allies were among those rallying for the controversial Next Generation Energy Plan. Without the legislation, Exelon has warned that it will have to shutter its Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear power plants, which are reportedly struggling financially.
State Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet), whose district includes the Clinton nuclear plant, supports the legislation.
"This is not a partisan issue," the lawmakers said, according to the Journal Gazette & Times-Courier. "Clean, efficient, cheap power for the people of Illinois is an Illinois issue, and this bill keeps our power rates low."
Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan added: "We cannot afford to see a nuclear plant close."
But Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the legislation is essentially a bailout for Exelon and its subsidiary ComEd.
"It's outrageous that Exelon and ComEd are again requesting a bailout when they are both profitable companies," Madigan said in a statement about her opposition to the legislation, SB 1585. "This proposal would force consumers to pay more only to boost the companies' profits further. The legislature has more important matters to address than padding ComEd and Exelon's profits."
Abraham Scarr with the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) also weighed in on the energy legislation Tuesday. He told consumers not to believe "the hype" around the bill:
ComEd and Exelon want you to believe their 'Next Generation Energy Plan' will put Illinois on the path to a clean energy future. Don't believe the hype. They claim their bill will jump start solar, but the solar industry opposes it. They claim their new rate structure helps consumers, but consumer advocates oppose it. They ask for 'equal footing' with wind and solar, without counting the $5.58 billion Illinois ratepayers have already poured into their nuclear fleet.
The ComEd-Exelon bill prioritizes private profits over public good. Demand charges, the nuclear bailout, the grossly overpriced micro-grid proposal and many other policies all aim to deliver more, and more consistent, revenue for ComEd and Exelon.
It is time to transition to a clean, renewable energy economy and do so in a way that is fair to consumers and to the communities most impacted by our energy system. But instead of rising to these challenges, the ComEd-Exelon bill seeks to forestall this transition and wring as much profit from ratepayers as possible while delivering little in return.
In other news, Exelon's Illinois nuclear facilities were mentioned in a new report released Tuesday by Greenpeace.
The environmental group analyzed "near misses or accident precursors at U.S. nuclear power plants over the past decade." The report adds that "risk analysts have determined" these events to be "precursors to a meltdown."
The incidents were reported to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. From 2004 through 2014, NRC recored "61 events and 102 conditions at US nuclear plants that were near misses to a meltdown," the report says.
All but three of Exelon's 11 nuclear reactors in Illinois are reported to have had "near misses" over that decade, according to the research.
"As legislators and the governor move to decide Illinois energy future and whether to bailout three of Exelon's aging and financially failing reactors, they should well consider the potential safety risks of staying with nuclear power, and whether or not the federal regulators are doing their job to adequately protect Illinois from enormous economic and environmental harm," Dave Kraft, director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, an anti-nuclear group, said in reaction to the new Greenpeace report.