By Frank Conklin, The Chicago Times

September 9, 2021

SPRINGFIELD, IL — The Illinois House was set to approve a broad plan to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050 on Thursday, with a compromise allowing two coal-fired plants to remain open until 2045 while cutting emissions by nearly half over the next 14 years.

The plan was approved by the Executive Committee on a partisan roll call of 9-6 early Thursday afternoon, with Republicans who opposed it saying that they support helping to keep northern Illinois nuclear plants operational, but that the abrupt end of coal-generated power would cost thousands of jobs and leave Illinois reliant on energy produced by burning fossil fuels in other states.

The legislation, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Marcus Evans of Chicago, calls for a $700 million subsidy to keep the state’s nuclear power-plant fleet operational, as well as provisions to close coal plants in central and southwest Illinois and invest in renewable energy such as wind and solar.

The main difference between the Senate version and the House version affects two coal plants: Springfield’s municipally owned City Water Light & Power and the Prairie State Generating Co. in Marissa, which is 41 miles (65 kilometers) southeast of St. Louis.  The Senate plan called for the plants to be shut down by 2045.  If the bill is approved by the House, it will be sent back to the Senate for consideration of the changes.

Some opponents have questioned the plan’s increase in utility rates, claiming that it could cost ratepayers as much as $15 or more per month.  Evans stated on Thursday that the increase would not exceed $4.50 per month.

However, critics argue that the state is rewarding ComEd despite its admission to federal prosecutors that it engaged in a decade-long bribery scheme in Springfield that implicated former House Speaker Michael Madigan and resulted in the indictment of Madigan’s closest confidante and a former ComEd CEO.

Lawmakers in central and southern Illinois are concerned about the closure of the Springfield and Marissa coal plants.  They are concerned not only about the loss of union jobs, but also about the lack of detail on how their generating capacity will be replaced.

Frank Conklin, Illinois Political Columnist for The Chicago Times.  Views and comments expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the official position of The Chicago Times.

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