Pritzker energy plan proposes $694M for Exelon nuclear plants, closing Prairie State coal plant

The potential change to an energy bill proposed in Springfield also sets clean air goals of phasing out coal by 2035 and natural gas by 2045.

SHARE Pritzker energy plan proposes $694M for Exelon nuclear plants, closing Prairie State coal plant
Gov. J.B. Pritzker

Gov. J.B. Pritzker

Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times file photo

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is proposing spending $694 million to bail out three Exelon nuclear plants and shutter all Illinois coal plants, including Prairie State, by 2035, according to a memo summarizing changes to sweeping energy legislation being debated in Springfield and obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

That subsidy, to be doled out over five years, fits within the parameters of an independent report Pritzker commissioned on the nuclear plants in Byron, Dresden and Braidwood, the memo said. That plan would also keep the company’s nuclear plant in LaSalle viable and cost the average residential electric customer an estimated 80 cents per month. 

The proposed amendment to Senate Bill 1534 also sets clean air goals — phasing out coal by 2035 and natural gas by 2045 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and putting $2 million a year from electric customers toward funding Prairie State’s decommissioning costs.

The governor’s new language would create a task force to investigate carbon capture and sequestration, as well as debt financing options, for Prairie State and the municipalities with ownership stakes in the plants.

The carbon capture process, which was requested by legislators where the plants are located, traps carbon dioxide emissions created when burning coal or other fossil fuels or while producing steel or cement. It compresses the emissions and stores them underground, according to National Grid, a multinational electric and gas utility.

The fate of the Prairie State coal plant, which is owned by municipal utilities in Winnetka, Naperville, Batavia and dozens of other towns across the state, was one of the final sticking points during negotiations on an energy bill in the waning days of the legislative session last month.

Some lawmakers called for Pritzker to keep the plant open. But Pritzker nixed exempting Prairie State from the goal of eliminating coal.

“An exemption for the nation’s seventh largest polluter remains unacceptable to the Governor, as well as the nearly 50 legislators that have indicated they will not support a bill that does so,” the memo reads. “The Governor stands ready to sign this bill should the General Assembly choose to pass it next week in Springfield.”

The proposed new bill language also calls on the Illinois Commerce Commission to begin an investigation into how ratepayer funds were used in connection to a Deferred Prosecution Agreement reached with ComEd in a bribery scandal involving former House Speaker Michael Madigan.

In the agreement, ComEd was accused of sending $1.3 million to associates of Madigan for doing little or no work all while the utility hoped to land Madigan’s support for legislation in Springfield worth more than $150 million to the utility.

The proposed bill “requires that any funds used in furtherance” of what’s in the Deferred Prosecution Agreement be repaid to ratepayers.

Sources said Pritzker was not aware of another draft of energy legislation that was also sent out Thursday. Lawmakers in a working group and other stakeholders will meet Friday morning to discuss the drafts.

Neither chamber of the General Assembly took up energy legislation before they adjourned last week. They plan to return to Springfield next week to vote on the energy bill and other legislation.

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