Legislators plead Clinton nuke case with Rauner

Legislators plead Clinton nuke case with Rauner

SPRINGFIELD — Not only would the closing of the Clinton nuclear plant west of Champaign damage the central Illinois economy, legislators said Thursday, but it also would result in higher electric bills.

About a dozen community leaders from DeWitt County and the surrounding area met Thursday morning with Gov. Bruce Rauner at the governor's Capitol office, explaining how the loss of 700 jobs and the nuclear plant's assessed valuation would be harmful to the region.

Rauner was unavailable for comment but state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forysth, said Rauner listened and said he is studying a Senate bill that would give Exelon, the owner of the Clinton plant and a second endangered nuclear plant near the Quad Cities, financial assistance to continue operating the units.

"It's a large bill and they're looking at it," Mitchell said of the 613-page proposal. "That's all that we could hope for."

Mitchell and Rose acknowledged that under the Exelon bill ratepayers throughout Illinois — including those in the Ameren territory downstate — would pay an estimated 25 cents more per month for electricity.

"Obviously we have the parochial interest of East Central Illinois here with the number of jobs at stake, and good-paying jobs at stake," said Rose. "But Clinton represents about 20 percent of the baseload capacity of our grid. If they were to close you're talking about a massive rate increase on ratepayers anywhere in downstate Illinois."

Rose said he'd opt for the Exelon choice over losing the two nuclear plants.

"You take nuke out of the mix and not only have you lost the baseload (generating capacity) that you now have to make up for, which is going to raise rates, but you're also paying the more costly providers to do it. To me this whole issue of costs is almost a red herring because it's going up anyway," he said. "I'd rather take something with caps and which is protected by the (Illinois) commerce commission process."

Mitchell predicted "a massive rate hike" if Exelon's nuclear plants close, and he defended the subsidy to keep them open.

"The precedent's already been set in terms of the state of Illinois subsidizing. And it's a very expensive subsidy for wind and solar. We just want a level playing field here for nukes," Mitchell said.

The Exelon legislation would count the company's nuclear plants as zero-emissions units, similar to wind and solar power, and would require the state to purchase a percentage of their output, just as it does for wind and solar energy.

"Nukes fit well into the future of energy for Illinois," Mitchell said. "Right now, the way the energy situation is, nukes are not profitable. We think they will be profitable."

Exelon has claimed that the Clinton plant has lost $453 million over the last six years, and that it cannot continue to sustain the losses.

"I just think I take Exelon at its word that they will make an announcement at the beginning of June" about the plant's future, Mitchell said. "This is a horrible time for this to come with the budget problems and everything else. This just makes things more complicated."

Adding to the complexity is the recent announcement by Dynegy, a coal-based utility company, that it is shutting down some of its Illinois units.

Rose said that "behind the scenes people are working with" coal representatives and others to negotiate a state energy bill.

"I think we need more of everything," said Rose.

"We want to include them in the picture. We're more than glad to help them if they'll help us," added Mitchell.

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leftylib wrote on May 12, 2016 at 6:05 pm

Question for the editor...... In the 5th paragraph, it is mentioned it would cost 25 cents more per month... Should it be 25 percent more per month?  Or a different amount altogether?

Mike Howie wrote on May 12, 2016 at 6:05 pm
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Thanks for the question. I've checked with Tom Kacich. The story is correct as written, 25 cents more per month.

Mike Howie

online editor