As June 1 dawned, a weather advisory warned of reduced visibility. The dense fog lifted in central Illinois, but in Springfield that day the future was hard to see for the state’s plans for climate-friendly energy policies.
The Legislature’s Spring Session ended May 31, when the House left with no agreement on four energy-related proposals, and the Senate grappled with Exelon trying to hold lawmakers hostage with demands for even more subsidies and with concerns that a couple of downstate municipalities that own power plants could suffer with de-carbonization mandates.
Exelon, which owns ComEd, had demanded more money or it would shut down its Dresden, Byron and maybe Braidwood nuclear power plants, threatening to severely limit energy production, probably cause rate hikes, and sacrifice hundreds of good jobs.
“I support the plants, the workers and carbon-free energy – but not at any price to ratepayers,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “While Exelon is held accountable to their shareholders to maximize their profits, I am accountable to the working families who will shoulder these additional costs on their energy bills.”
It’s been frustrated for environmentalists, consumer advocates, labor unions and lawmakers, all of whom for years have been working to move to renewable energy.
“Negotiations have been rough,” said Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria).
After a possible compromise with Exelon, a late hitch happened when Senate President Don Harmon and downstate colleagues sought de-carbonization exemptions for the City Water, Light and Power plant in Springfield and the Prairie State Generating Station near Marissa. Numerous towns finance that facility with municipal bonds, allowing them to own a share, and they’re worried about bankruptcy if Prairie State can’t pay off its bonds.
Plus, Prairie State has scrubbers, and carbon-capture/sequestration seems possible for the plants.
Meanwhile, four proposals are still part of the debate over an omnibus energy measure:
“Consumers and Climate First” renews funding for solar installations, sets standards for wind and solar facilities, phases out coal by 2030 and natural gas by 2045, and eliminates utility companies’ automatic rate increases. But it includes some rate hikes and has a weak jobs-creation provision. However, it addresses ethics (timely, given the scandal involving Exelon/ComEd and cohorts of ex-Speaker Mike Madigan), including forbidding ratepayer funds from being used for “charitable” donations.
“Clean Energy Jobs,” with 45 sponsors and first introduced in 2019 (when it was set aside because of other issues), wants the state to use 100% renewable energy by 2050 and includes incentives to get industry on board (as if avoiding environmental catastrophe isn’t sufficient). Non-government supporters include the Sierra Club and the Alliance for Climate Education youth group.
“Climate Union Jobs” introduced Feb. 11, says it will create hundreds of union jobs working on state-subsidized clean-energy projects and save 200,000 jobs, according to co-sponsor Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Frankfort). It aims to increase subsidies for non-carbon electricity generation including nuclear power plants, and to enact worker rights for people displaced by the transition to renewable energy.
“What makes this legislation different from other ideas out there – and, yes, we do share the same goals as many others – is that it puts working families at the center of Illinois’ clean energy efforts, where they should be,” said Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris), the Republican co-sponsor in the Senate.
The bill also responds to public concerns about ethics by including transparency and accountability mandates for utilities. Backed by the Illinois AFL-CIO, it was unanimously recommended for adoption by the Public Utilities Commission but has opposition, including the Illinois Public Interest Research Group, whose director Abe Scarr said, “It doubles down on the worst policies passed during ComEd’s corrupt scheme and makes them worse.”
“Path to 100” says it would create more than 50,000 jobs and the addition of $8.7 billion in economic output. Introduced by Rep. William Davis (D-Homewood), it says it would provide $1.9 billion in payments to landowners and also savings for distributed and community solar customers.
“I think there will be elements of each when we meet again in the next couple of weeks,” Koehler said. “I think environmentalists will get about 70% of what they want, and labor will get a lot. But we need to get it done. Solar incentives have already run out.”
Unlike the spring session, however, passage will require a 3/5 vote since it’s after June 1 and the measure’s effective date would be immediate.
It’s still possible for creative compromise, but the road there is as foggy as ever.
Bill Knight has been a reporter, editor and columnist for more than 50 years. Also an author, Knight is a journalism professor emeritus from WIU, where he taught for more than 20 years. Contact him at email@example.com; for archives, go to https://ift.tt/2Kt0b7d.
via Canton Daily Ledger
June 7, 2021 at 09:33AM