The Senate appears poised to pass a long-discussed energy bill as early as Tuesday, but the legislation may already be dead.
Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Frankfort) submitted a long-awaited energy bill Monday just hours before a Senate committee took nearly 90 minutes of testimony on the 980-page legislation. Unions and nuclear advocates are supportive of the bill, but environmental groups continue to proceed with reservations or downright opposition.
Some fear there isn’t enough emphasis on building up wind and solar infrastructure in the state.
“This is a renewable energy investment bill,” said Hastings. “This would be the most transforming and sweeping renewable energy investment bill in the entire country.”
But, the real difference, as it has been throughout the process, is how long coal-fired power plants around the state, specifically the Prairie State Energy plant in southern Illinois, will be allowed to operate.
Environmental groups have been backed by Governor JB Pritzker throughout the process, and they say coal is getting a pass in the legislation.
“This bill would allow coal plants to pollute in perpetuity,” said J.C. Kibbey, a clean energy advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It would allow Prairie State to burn coal forever and continue killing one person every five days forever. Continuing to burn coal forever is not consistent with a livable climate. It is not consistent with environmental justice. It is certainly not nation leading on climate change.”
Others believe there needs to be more work on making the climate provisions stronger.
“Getting this bill right on climate and equity is absolutely essential if we’re going to do right by our communities, if we’re going to heed the call of science and if we’re going to plot the best future for the state of Illinois,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club of Illinois. “This bill doesn’t quite meet that standard of leading the country on climate. We need to do that.”
But Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago), one of the top Democratic negotiators on the bill says all sides should be happy with progress.
“I would urge all not to let perfect be the enemy of the good on this bill,” said Cunningham. “There is a lot of good here. There is a lot of good in this bill that is the product of a lot of hard work.”
Hastings said the latest draft Prairie State to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2040 and municipal coal plants, like the CWLP plant in Springfield must reduce emissions using unproven carbon sequestration technology.
But all sides seem to agree on saving nuclear plants in Byron and at Dresden, in Grundy County.
Governor JB Pritzker is said to support around $700 million in subsidies to energy giant Exelon to keep the plants in operation. Exelon, the parent company of embattled Commonwealth Edison, is already in the process of shutting the two locations down.
“The urgency of the nuclear component of this bill is real, and, without action over the next couple of days, now, we will lose [two nuclear] facilities and the thousands of good paying jobs they provide,” said Pat Devaney, who negotiated the bill on behalf of the AFL-CIO. “[If the plants aren’t saved,] we’ll see financial devastation to entire regions of our state and a major setback for Illinois in meeting its clean energy goals.”
While the legislation may get some tweaks and a hearing Tuesday morning, supporters believe there are enough votes to pass it in the Senate. We’re told aides to Governor JB Pritzker have told lawmakers Pritzker is against the Senate version of the bill and would likely veto and kill the bill. The bill is likely only to get a handful of Republican votes in the Senate and House Speaker Chris Welch has said he won’t call bills for a vote the Governor won’t support.
Many advocates on both sides say they can reach an agreement, but it may take a few more days.
via The Illinoize
August 31, 2021 at 05:53AM