Exelon threatens to close 2 power plants after Illinois lawmakers fail to pass energy bill

After the General Assembly failed to pass his 900-page clean energy proposal, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said Wednesday he still hopes it will soon become law.

"We need to get a bill passed," Pritzker told a Springfield news conference, adding, "I will not sign a bill that does not match the gravity of this moment. That means that a bill claiming to contain meaningful decarbonization measures, but does not pass muster on the details and does not move us toward a clean energy economy is not a real climate bill."


Business groups claimed the proposal would trigger a billion dollar electricity rate increase, the biggest in Illinois history. But the governor said that what blocked passage by the General Assembly were unresolved disputes between two core constituencies of Democrats in Springfield.

Unions opposed forcing the shutdown of two coal-fired power plants downstate and, eventually, natural gas-fired plants. Environmentalists demanded the eventual end of fossil fuel burning, which throws climate-changing carbon in to the atmosphere. They were willing to postpone the deadlines until 2035 or 2045, but insisted there be some shutdown deadline.

Also in the sprawling piece of proposed legislation: a new $700-million subsidy for three additional nuclear power plants owned by Exelon, the parent company of electric utility ComEd. That subsidy is twice as large as the $350 million recommended by independent auditors. Without that cash, Exelon is threatening to close two of the nukes beginning this fall, eliminating hundreds of well-paid union jobs.

The proposal also contained incentives aimed at putting a million additional electric vehicles on Illinois roads. The governor has been deeply involved in efforts to expand the manufacturing of electric trucks and cars in the state. 

"We should have an industry -- a whole industry of electric vehicles in Illinois, based upon the clean energy principles that we set out," Pritzker said.

The governor said negotiations were continuing. He said he is optimistic that a deal could be reached "within weeks or months."

If there is an agreement, Pritzker said he would summon lawmakers back to the state capitol to vote on it.