Negotiations over a clean-energy bill for Illinois fell apart Tuesday.
The legislation potentially would set closure dates 14 or 24 years from now for coal-fired power plants in Springfield and southern Illinois, assist northern Illinois nuclear plants and promote alternative energy sources.
Returning after a two-week break to work out final details of the energy bill, the Illinois Senate adjourned its spring session Tuesday amid disappointment among Democrats and Republicans alike.
“We came to Springfield today in the hopes of passing a landmark, nation-leading climate bill,” said Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park. “We came up a little short today, but we will get it done.”
Harmon said he believes differences between labor unions and environmental activists can be resolved so a bill can be passed this summer during an as-yet unscheduled special session.
The Illinois House was scheduled to return to Springfield on Wednesday to deal with issues that were expected to include an energy bill approved by the Senate. It’s unknown whether the House will vote on energy legislation, but it appeared unlikely.
Harmon said the holdup in the Senate’s Democratic caucus, which represents a super-majority in the 59-member chamber, centered on two issues:
* How the legislation would deal with requiring “prevailing wage” on many wind and solar projects and make sure Black and Latino workers get their fair share of those jobs; and
* “Interim decarbonization targets” for natural gas-fired electric generation plants before they all would be required to close by 2045.
The disagreements involve “two critical constituencies” for Democrats — environmental activists and organized labor, Harmon said.
“All of the stakeholders are preparing for decarbonization, with coal going offline in 2035 and gas going offline in 2045 unless there is some significant technological change that allows them to operate without polluting,” Harmon said.
“Those are important targets, and we stand willing to support those, but the predictability issue is one that’s very real,” he said. “We want to make sure that Illinoisans are working at good-paying jobs, both the folks who are in the industry today and the folks who are going to take those clean-energy jobs going forward, and that we just don’t create a situation where we end up shutting down Illinois plants and end up importing dirty energy from other states.”
Harmon said the latest draft of the energy bill would have started requiring the closure of some gas-fired power plants “in the next few years. … There are significant investments and significant jobs associated with those plants. People could be out of a job on Monday if we passed that bill today.”
Both environmentalists and labor officials have “moved considerably toward the middle, and both sides are operating in good faith,” Harmon said.
"Labor is being asked to support the closure of plants and the elimination of jobs," he said. "That might be the toughest vote in Springfield. Tougher than voting to raise someone’s taxes is voting to say, ‘Next month or next year you don’t have a job.’ These are very real concerns for very real people.”
An aide to Gov. JB Pritzker on Tuesday said the Democratic governor is proposing a new provision in the legislation that would give coal-fired plants in Springfield and southern Illinois’ Washington County the ability to remain open until 2045 if they remove most of the carbon from their emissions by the end of 2034.
Deputy Gov. Christian Mitchell said in a statement that a previous version of the bill would have forced closure of all Illinois coal-fired plants by 2035.
The 2035 date was vigorously opposed by Springfield’s municipally owned City Water, Light and Power, and by the municipally owned Prairie State Energy Campus in Washington County. CWLP has debt for coal-fire units that won’t be paid off until after 2035.
Mitchell said Pritzker was attempting to satisfy the concerns of the constituents of more than 50 Democratic and Republican state lawmakers who sent him a letter over the weekend.
The letter said CWLP and Prairie State, both not-for-profit entities, combined employ more than 1,100 workers and support an additional 1,000 skilled union trades workers.
The governor’s proposed compromise would allow CWLP and Prairie Energy to keep operating their coal-fired units until 2045 if they adopted technologies that remove 90% of carbon emissions by late 2034.
“We’ve come a long way,” Mitchell said. “We have moved substantially. The other side has not moved much.
“Everything we were told was necessary for an agreement — including a carbon-capture exemption that gives both the governor and environmentalists heartburn — is now present. And at some point, a progressive climate bill is no longer a climate bill, and going further than this is the tipping point.”
There was no comment Tuesday from CWLP and Prairie State officials on the proposed compromise.
Harmon said it’s unknown whether carbon-capture technology will progress in the next 14 years to allow for a 90% reduction in pollutants.
Through proposed rate increases in the northern Illinois areas served by Commonwealth Edison, Mitchell said the bill being crafted would provide $694 million in financial support for the Byron, Dresden, Braidwood and LaSalle nuclear power plants and preserve 2,000 direct jobs at the plants and thousands of indirect jobs,
He said the bill also would “create thousands of jobs in the renewable energy space, almost all of them covered by project labor agreements or prevailing wage.”
Pritzker’s proposal would maintain jobs at CWLP and Prairie State for at least 14 years and potentially 24 years, Mitchell said.
The bill also would “create thousands of good jobs for union workers by standing up a transparent and reasonable ratemaking system for ComEd and Ameren, Mitchell said.
The bill would double the state’s investment in renewable energy and provide indexed renewable energy credits costing residential ratepayers about $1.22 per month. The legislation would expand weatherization efforts for low-income homeowner, costing residential ratepayers about 86 cents per month.
“The governor stands ready to sign this bill, to put consumers and climate first, preserve and create clean and renewable energy jobs, and make us a national and midwestern leader,” Mitchell said.
CWLP officials had complained that a mandate to close all coal-fired plants by 2035 would require Dallman 4, a 207-megawatt generating unit fueled with high-sulphur coal from the Viper Mine in Williamsville, to close five years before bonds used to finance its $515 million construction are paid off.
The utility shut down the Dallman 31 and 32 units in 2020 and plans to shut down Dallman 33, one of CWLP’s two remaining coal-fired units, sometime in 2023.
CWLP recently began working with the University of Illinois to test carbon-capture technology on Dallman 4, a project that will begin removing a portion of the carbon from emissions between 2023 and 2026.
Even though Prairie State operates its $5 billion, 1,600 megawatt coal-fired plant east of St. Louis, municipalities and electric cooperatives throughout the state have an ownership stake in the plant and depend on it for power.
Ratepayers, cooperatives and municipalities involved include those from Chatham, Riverton, Princeton, Peru, Batavia, Rochelle, Oglesby and the counties of Sangamon, Menard, Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Cass, Christian, Knox, Logan, Macon, Mason, Macoupin, McLean, Morgan, Montgomery and Schuyler.
Many lawmakers representing CWLP and Prairie State have advocated for the electric providers be exempted from any specific closure dates for coal-fired plants.
Contact Dean Olsen: firstname.lastname@example.org; (217) 836-1068; twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.
via The State Journal-Register
June 17, 2021 at 06:29AM