Photo Courtesy of Prairie State Generating Co.
By Capital News Illinois and Fox Valley Magazine
Lawmakers will be back in session next week to consider a sweeping energy overhaul bill and possibly other legislation.
The Senate is planning to come in Tuesday, June 15, and the House is planning to meet Wednesday, June 16.
An announcement from Senate President Don Harmon’s office said, “It is expected that the Senate session will be one day only,” with the purpose of passing “clean energy legislation that Gov. JB Pritzker negotiated to set Illinois on a path to a nation-leading renewable energy plan.”
The House left the door open for further action, including consideration of an elected Chicago school board bill which already passed the Senate.
“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,” House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch said in a statement. “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.”
The energy proposal, which has been in negotiations since Pritzker’s first year in office in 2019, had not yet been filed in bill form as of Tuesday, but lawmakers and stakeholders had previously noted it was agreed to in principal.
One of the sticking points at the end of the regular legislative session was whether municipal energy providers would be exempted from a provision in the bill that aims to shut down coal plants in the state by 2035. That hangup reportedly occurred in the Senate, as Pritzker was opposed to exempting certain municipal plants from closure.
Among those plants is the controversial Prairie State Generating Station located in southern Illinois, which is beneficially owned on part by four Fox Valley region communities – Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles and Naperville. The facility provides the vast majority of electricity to these municipalities, along with many others throughout the Midwest, and its shut-down in 2035 would likely have significant negative effects on the residents thereof.
Harmon deflected blame for the bill’s slowdown in his chamber in a June 1 news conference following the legislative session.
“I have been fighting for renewable energy for my entire time here in Springfield. I fought for renewable energy when people laughed at me for fighting for it,” he said. “So the notion that I am somehow holding up an energy bill on behalf of a fossil fuel provider is laughable.”
Harmon said he has a “responsibility to my caucus,” meaning his fellow Senate Democrats.
“And many members of my caucus had been relying on the framework that the energy working group had articulated on municipal and co-op facilities,” he added. “The governor’s agreement with Exelon was a significant departure from that framework. And I told the governor I needed to go back to my caucus to ask how those folks who represent municipalities that participate or have a municipal generating facility would be impacted. And I’m confident we’ll have the votes to pass it.”
Exelon, the state’s only nuclear energy provider which owns six nuclear plants across the state, had been seeking subsidies for some of its nuclear plants to ensure profitability. Two of its plants were already entitled to more than $2.3 billion in subsidies paid out over 10 years as part of a deal struck by lawmakers in 2016.
But with Commonwealth Edison, a subsidiary of Exelon, embroiled in a state government scandal that has yielded several indictments, lawmakers have been leery of giving the company more than is needed to ensure it can continue to produce the lion’s share of the state’s energy without shuttering plants.
Exact details of what Exelon might receive in the upcoming deal were not known as of Tuesday. We’ll have full report on the bill once we know more.