BYRON — With just a few weeks left before Exelon is slated to close its Byron nuclear plant, residents are reaching out to legislators to urge them to pass an energy bill that would keep the plant open.
The Byron Station Response Committee, a coalition of residents, business owners and Byron School Board members, are strategizing their final efforts to keep the plant open after Exelon submitted its closure plans to federal regulators for both the Byron and Dresden plants.
In an effort to get lawmakers to take action, the Byron Station Response Committee is starting a letter-writing campaign targeted at the governor, the speaker of the state House of Representatives and the president of the state Senate.
Gov. JB Pritzker wants lawmakers to agree to a bill he brought to the table in June that serves as a compromise for labor and environmental groups. However, both groups declared an impasse at the start of the month due to a disagreement about when fossil fuel plants should shut down.
But the Byron committee isn’t advocating for one version of a bill over another. Instead, they’re placing their support behind whatever keeps the plant open.
Christine Lynde, president of the Byron School Board and a Byron Station Response Committee member, said the committee plans to appear at as many events as possible to encourage Illinois residents to either craft their own letter or sign, date and handwrite the envelope to one of their pre-made letters. The goal is to get as many letters to legislators as they can before September.
"We’re trying to find events where we can set up tables and just have people physically fill out letters in the hopes that a massive campaign will catch the eye," Lynde said.
The two nuclear power plants have struggled to compete with the cheap power being produced from shale gas, often extracted through hydraulic fracking, and Exelon says the Dresden and Byron plants face revenue shortcomings because of market rules that allow fossil fuel plants to underbid them.
The bill Pritzker introduced in June would keep plants like Exelon’s Byron Generating Station open by providing nearly $700 million over five years in subsidies and incentives for the development of wind and solar power.
Lynde and some state officials have said that details of the bill, such as when coal and gas-powered plants would be fazed out, can be agreed upon later in return for passing a bill now that keep Exelon’s nuclear plants open. Pritzker’s proposal wouldn’t faze out coal and gas plants until at least 2035.
"We are committed to passing these items now and coming back to the table to negotiate the more long-term aspects of Illinois’ energy future with the various stakeholders between now and the General Assembly’s fall veto session in October," said state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, and other state representatives in a joint statement.
With thousands of jobs at stake and a community’s economy hanging in the balance, Lynde is frustrated that lawmakers have yet to pass a bill that would keep the plants operating.
"This is very disappointing. It’s disheartening, and it’s frustrating to think that something as good as this for everybody can’t get done. And I don’t understand why," Lynde said.
Ogle County could potentially lose up to the $338 million in tax revenue with the plant’s closure, according to an economic impact study prepared by Brian Harger, a senior research specialist at NIU. In addition, the Byron School District is in jeopardy of seeing up to nearly 75% of its budget evaporate.
Lynde says she is proud of the way the community has responded in the face of adversity. She hopes residents can remain resilient a little bit longer.
"I am so pleased with the amount of effort from all of the government entities here that are involved. Our business and our local community members are advocating for us like crazy," Lynde said. "There is just so much on everyone’s plate, but I can’t not ask for more."
via Rockford Register Star
August 12, 2021 at 06:59AM