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Letters: Nuclear energy in Illinois needs level playing field

In its April 27 editorial, the Sun-Times suggests that the Illinois General Assembly should “flick the off switch” on a bill that would preserve the state’s most reliable and abundant source of low carbon electricity — its nuclear plants.

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But that comes with a high cost. Failing to pass this bill also will likely flick the off switch on three Illinois nuclear energy plants that provide carbon-free power, thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic benefits to the state.

Here’s why. Although Illinois’ nuclear plants are extremely well run, three of the plants are losing money every year, putting them at risk of being shut down. A state of Illinois report found that the consequences of closing these plants prematurely would be catastrophic, with losses to the state of $1.8 billion in annual economic activity and nearly 8,000 jobs. Even worse, it would raise electricity prices statewide by up to $500 million each year – costing the average Illinois household far more than the projected $2 per month to keep the nuclear energy plants operating.

Critics have suggested that because Exelon as a whole is profitable, the plants should stay open. But that doesn’t make business sense. We have to make decisions based on each plant’s economics. We cannot operate Plant A at a loss simply because Plant B is earning a profit, just as Illinois-based drugstore chains and fast-food restaurant chains are not keeping their money-losing locations open by subsidizing them with profits from other stores.

We have opened our books to certain policymakers to share proprietary information on the financial losses at our Illinois nuclear energy plants. But Exelon is a publicly traded company and cannot broadly reveal competitively sensitive information. While our competitors would love to get a look at our books, it would undermine the company’s financial stability and only serve to make a bad financial situation worse for the three at-risk nuclear energy facilities.

Many state legislators recognize the value of nuclear energy to Illinois, and there is strong bipartisan support for the Low Carbon Portfolio Standard bill that preserves the jobs, economic and clean air benefits the plants provide. This bill isn’t just for nuclear — it also will encourage development of new renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, in Illinois and nearby states to make up the full 70 percent low-carbon requirement. In fact, the bill is expected to incent development of up to 1,000 megawatts of new wind energy.

All we are asking for is a level playing field. Currently, state policies do not allow nuclear energy to compete equally with other zero-carbon energy sources.

In May 2014, we committed to Illinois House and Senate leadership, labor leaders and other stakeholders to not make any decisions about economically challenged nuclear plants in Illinois for a year. We are considering all options, but to be clear, we will shut down facilities where we do not see a path to sustained profitability. We hope we see a clear path by the end of this current legislative session in May.

In the absence of policy support for nuclear energy, unprofitable plants will need to be shut down to stem ongoing losses. We encourage Illinoisans to think carefully about the high costs of losing these key sources of reliable, clean and affordable energy that are keeping the lights on, the air clean, the economy strong and thousands of citizens employed.

Chris Crane, president & CEO, Exelon

Good reporting

Kudos to Mark Brown and Natasha Korecki for having the guts to question Gov. Bruce Rauner’s real intent in his “Power to the People agenda.” He fools no one with his phony tour or Turnaround agenda.

When one has billionaires/zillionaires donating millions to his PAC, no one is going to believe it’s to benefit the working class. On the contrary, his intent is to crush the unions and in turn the middle and working class to give the wealthy more control in politics and the state. We all need to pay attention and see what is going down in Illinois — and I think it’s the middle class. His PAC will be used to support legislators who will support his agenda and oppose those who stand in his way.

Ann Gutierrez, Tinley Park

What Jackson didn’t say

In the April 28 Chicago Sun-Times, Jesse Jackson’s column pointed out that the violence in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray is due to the lack of opportunity, jobs and the social injustice endemic to black communities nationwide. Jackson compared being black in America to “having a felony conviction in terms of one’s chances of finding a job” according to Harvard sociologist Devah Pager.

Not once in his article does Jackson mention the scores of businesses that will no longer exist as a result of the criminal looting as well as the jobs that these businesses provided for the community. Not once does Jackson mention the 15 police officers injured by rocks and bottles. Not once does Jackson mention the millions of dollars of taxpayer money that it will take to replace the burned police vehicles, the reconstruction of buildings and the 60 units of unfinished senior housing that were destroyed in the  riots. Not once does Jackson mention the fact that schools were closed and professional sporting events canceled, all due to this violent behavior that Jackson never condemns!

I saw one mother out there in the crowd who found her son involved in the violent protest and escorted him away in a way only a mother can as she reacts to her offspring’s bad behavior. Where were you, Jackson, when it was time to stop the violence, stop the destruction and set an example?

Michael McCune, Tinley Park

Remapping challenges

Attempts to reform the way that legislative districts are drawn usually fail on the issue of minority representation. It is believed that districts need to be drawn in a way that puts a majority of a certain minority together, so that this district would most likely elect a minority representative.

I believe this thinking is wrong, because this minority representation would now be a very small percentage of the whole legislative body. But if a lot of districts had sizable minorities groups in them, even though the representative is not a minority, he would be foolish not to represent them well, because he is dependent on their votes to win. So now there would be more representatives looking out for their interests, assuming, of course, that their interests are really any different from anybody else. What representative would only care about certain schools in his district or the employment of only a part of his district?

Once we allow demographics to play any part in the drawing of our districts, who will say where it will end? Other demographics would not be so obvious in knowing if the districts were drawn to favor or disfavor them. Districts could be drawn with regard to income, religion, age, education, public dependency, or even on positions of public policies.

In other words, I believe it is dangerous to let anyone drawing up districts have any more information than how many people live a certain area.

Larry Craig, Wilmette