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Watchdog Group: Nuclear Bailout Legislation Imminent in Illinois

Exelon has six nuclear generating stations in Illinois. (neis.org)
Exelon has six nuclear generating stations in Illinois. (neis.org)
November 2, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Much of the media focus in Illinois has been on baseball and the upcoming presidential election, but advocates for renewable energy in the state say residents need to know that later this month a nuclear bailout bill could be back in front of lawmakers.

Last month, state Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, said he would introduce another version of Senate Bill 1585, the "2016 Exelon Nuclear Bailout legislation," as early as the fall veto session, which begins Nov. 15. Dave Kraft, director of the watchdog group Nuclear Energy Information Service, questioned why ratepayers need to carry the burden of the country's largest nuclear utility.

"No other business entity in Illinois gets that privilege," Kraft said. "They didn't do it for Mitsubishi, they didn't do it for Nabisco, they're not likely to do it for Cat or Chrysler in Belvidere, or Boeing, or United Airlines when they lose money."

SB 1585 amends the Public Utilities Act, preventing premature closings of nuclear power plants. Trotter's office said there would be dire consequence to the economy, jobs, and the environment if they were shut down.

Kraft said the legislation also threatens community solar energy projects which he said Exelon and its Midwest utility, ComEd, want to eliminate.

"It gets rid of net metering, which is something we currently have, where if people want to put solar panels on their roof, they not only get the benefit of the electricity for doing that themselves, but if they generate a surplus they can actually sell it back to the grid," Kraft said. "Well, ComEd wants to get rid of that. It's in their interest to do that so they can control solar."

Illinois' utility companies have said the bailout only would raise ratepayers' bills by about 25 cents per month while ensuring stability and improving Illinois' energy markets. Critics say ratepayers would be on the hook for an average of $3 per month during the first 10 years, and more after that.

The text of SB 1585 is online at ilga.gov.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL