The 45th District Senator says Senate Bill 18, which was approved by a 39-16-2 vote in the early morning hours of Sept. 1, left lawmakers with the terrible option of either approving huge financial subsidies to wind and solar companies, or beginning to dismantle the state’s fleet of nuclear power plants.
“It is important for people to understand that regardless of the way this is being portrayed, Senate Bill 18 is not a friend to nuclear energy. I would have strongly supported provisions to protect the Bryon nuclear power plant if they were presented in a stand-alone bill,” Stewart said. “What they aren’t telling you is that Senate Bill 18 also has a number of bad provisions, poison pills that will ultimately hurt Illinois ratepayers, businesses and consumers by significantly increasing utility rates. This package represents the largest utility rate increase in Illinois history. And it will set in place, a structure and a process that will insidiously work against nuclear power plants.”
Under the guise of working to produce “clean” energy, Senate Bill 18 gives huge subsidies to wind and solar companies, without any reforms on their pricing, which will force more nuclear closures in the next five years as it doesn’t provide them with a level playing field in the market.
“Make no mistake. I support wind and solar energy, but state support to utility companies must be such that it allows for a level playing field,” Stewart said. “Some groups indicate that this plan’s subsidies will be severely lopsided, with one estimate indicating about $74 per clean energy credit received by a solar company, compared to only $6 per clean energy credit received by a nuclear company. This isn’t a level playing field.”
Stewart says state leaders must never underestimate the value of Illinois’ six nuclear generating stations, which provide the cleanest, most efficient, most affordable and most reliable power on the planet today. Without these nuclear power plants, any chance of achieving a carbon-free future for Illinois will be all but impossible.
“The Byron Nuclear Generating Station provides cost-effective, reliable and carbon-free energy to an estimated two million homes. This plant is integral to our region’s economy, providing about 800 jobs at the facility, and hundreds more regional jobs associated with refueling processes. These are professional jobs with specific sets of skills and if the Byron facility closes, many of the employees will need to move to other parts of the state or out of Illinois entirely,” Stewart said. “We must also consider the countless other businesses these employees support in their communities. The Byron facility also provides a strong, steady source of tax revenues – such as $38 million in property taxes annually – to help local governments pay for the services and programs they provide their residents.”
Stewart roundly criticized the manner in which the bill was presented – late at night with no guarantee that the House of Representatives would act on it, and despite some claims that Gov. Pritzker still opposes some provisions and would not sign it. A member of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee, Stewart says members were asked to discuss and vote on the reforms even before the nearly 1,000-page bill was in written form.
“You know, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Speaker Madigan may be no longer in charge in Springfield, but very little has changed in terms of the hyper-partisan nature of state government,” Stewart said, “And the unfortunate victims of the political game-playing are the residents of Illinois. Because regardless of which lawmaker represents you in the General Assembly, the decisions in Springfield are not being made on your behalf or for the good of the state as a whole.”
Stewart also noted other negative provisions of Senate Bill 18:
• Nearly $700 million in taxpayer funds to bail out Exelon.
• The second enormous bailout for Exelon in less than five years.
• For ComEd customers, rate-increase estimates range from nearly 4 percent for residential customers to 7 percent for industrial users, decimating any chance Illinois has of keeping the few remaining manufacturing jobs left. In dollars, that’s tens of thousands in higher costs for the average company at a time when they are already struggling to find reasons to stay in Illinois.
• Allows for private merchant lines, stretching from Pike County to Clark County, to come in and take your land.
• To be clear, we’re not talking about the government coming in taking your land for public use. No, this bill actually allows a private company to take your land so that they can make money off of it.
• Closes all private coal plants in Illinois by 2030 with no exceptions, jeopardizing jobs across the state.
• The Prairie State coal plant in Southern Illinois and CWLP in central Illinois have a hard closure date of 2045. That is simply not enough time to transition to other types of power plants.
• Closing these plants won’t even improve the environment – it will just force Illinois to buy more expensive fossil fuel energy from other states like Indiana and Kentucky.
• Saying that this bill puts Illinois on a path to clean energy is all smoke and mirrors.
Solar and Wind/Pro-Nuclear:
• Even with the huge subsidies, wind and solar still do not have to abide by the same ethical standards that traditional energy must follow.
• Instead of continuing to provide incentives for wind and solar, we should be building more nuclear plants to create more good-paying labor jobs, while also feeding the baseload of our state and other states too.