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Deal closing coal, subsidizing nuclear power expected next week

The Illinois Senate is coming back to session Tuesday, and one issue they’re expected to take up is a bill regulating the state’s energy industry.

Last week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said an energy deal is in the hands of the General Assembly. He wants to close coal-fired power plants by 2035.

After going into overtime, Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said there’s a deal in the works.

“My caucus members are assuring me generally that they’re comfortable with the 2035 date,” Harmon said last week. “A few members might not be able to vote for it because of impacts in their district, but I’m confident we’ll have the votes to support the decarbonization.”

This week, Harmon announced the Senate will return June 15 to take up an energy plan.

“This is a landmark clean energy plan that both protects thousands of jobs and moves Illinois responsibly toward the future,” Harmon said in a statement Tuesday.

State Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, Friday said she raised her concerns of the negative impacts on her community of closing coal-fired plants.

“And it wasn’t just me that was speaking out about those, my colleagues from across Illinois have been speaking up on them and I trust that President Harmon has been interjecting those ideas and concerns,” Turner said.

The House is expected to return the following day, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch said in a statement Tuesday.

“As I indicated before we adjourned on the final day of session, the House is expected to return next week on Wednesday, June 16 to take care of some final-action legislation,” he said. “Items such as the energy proposal, unemployment insurance, and an elected school board for Chicago will be at the top of our list. We were able to accomplish big things this legislative session, and I’m eager to keep that spirit alive in a quick special session next week.”

Any legislation with an effective immediate date after May 31 requires a supermajority to pass each chamber.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said closing coal-fired power plants like Springfield’s municipally-owned facility doesn’t work for downstate Illinois energy reliability.

“We’re going to have to pull it from somewhere else in the MISO grid, probably from coal-fired power plants in Kentucky or Indiana, which is kind of humorous when you think about that,” Butler told WMAY.

Butler criticized possible “sweetheart” deals for the nuclear energy industry noting the CEO of Exelon made $15 million last year.

“I’m all for keeping the nuclear fleet on, but we need to protect the assets that are owned by the citizens of Illinois at Prairies State and [City Water Light and Power],” Butler said.

While some say there needs to be a focus on more clean-energy jobs, Evan Wooding, business manager for Steamfitters in Peoria, said that won’t replace the careers of coal-fired power plants.

“So you go by all these facilities, there’s people there 24/7, 365, making sure they’re up and running and you’re talking about a job coming in and building a wind farm or a solar facility and then they’re gone,” Wooding said.

Full details on a proposed energy bill have not been released.

Source: The Central Square