The Illinois House and Senate approved a bill last week that has been characterized as an Exelon bailout by those opposed to it and a job-saving, renewable-energy-promoting bill by those in favor of it.
The Senate passed the bill with a 32-18 vote and the House passed it with a 63-38 vote. Gov. Bruce Rauner is expected to sign it this week, according to published reports.
Exelon stated in June it would close two nuclear plants – one in June 2017 in Clinton and one in June 2018 in Cordova – if the state did not act on the legislation.
The legislation, which has been modified over the last two years, would give $235 million each year to utilities and allow ComEd to increase spending on energy efficiency. Monthly rates will increase for ComEd customers, but the increase will be limited to 25 cents per month.
State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, came out strongly against the bill when given the chance to speak last week on the house floor.
He said he spent much of his Thanksgiving weekend trying to get information about the bill because it’s been changed so many times. There were several changes made to it the day it passed.
On principle alone, Batinick was against the legislation, and said that the state budget and essential services need to be first priority over a bailout of a profitable, multibillion-dollar company.
Batinick said Illinois ratepayers, with the increase, will be subsidizing electricity for residents of many other states. The power grid Exelon nuclear plants provide energy to stretches from Texas and Louisiana at the south, all the way north to Manitoba, Canada, he said.
Other Republicans such as state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, and state Rep. David Welter, R-Morris, voted in favor of the bill. Many employees of Exelon’s Dresden, Braidwood and LaSalle nuclear stations live in their respective districts.
“My belief is that supporting this legislation will protect small, medium and large energy users greater than doing nothing,” Welter stated in a news release.
Rezin stated in a news release the legislation will keep nuclear power plants in Cordova and Clinton in operation, saving thousands of jobs and communities from economic devastation.
Batinick said the bill was the only big piece of legislation the General Assembly has really worked on since a stop-gap budget was approved in late June. Now, the state will go into 2017 with no budget for the second half of the fiscal year.