News Local/State

Rauner, Lawmakers React To Exelon Closures


Exelon Corporation says there’s still time for the company to reverse its decision to retire two of its nuclear plants, including the site in Clinton.  The company announced Thursday it’s closing the plant in June of 2017, after state lawmakers ended their session without passing Next Generation Energy legislation, a measure that would rely on a subsidy from energy customers to stay open. 

The Quad Cities plant is targeted for closure in June of 2018.  A combined 1,500 jobs would be lost, 700 at the Clinton plant. 

The bill could be brought up again as House Speaker Michael Madigan is scheduled to bring lawmakers back each Wednesday this month, dealing with the budget impasse.  State Representative Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth), hopes it’s more often than that, while tackling multiple issues.

“My home is in Macon County, it has the highest unemployment in the state of Illinois," he said.  "We had problems with Caterpillar.  This just adds to the employment situation in Central Illinois. And then of course, you’ve got uncertainty at the University of Illinois, and possible layoffs there.”

In an appearance in the Quad Cities Thursday, Rauner vowed to address the issue.

“We need to protect good paying jobs," he said.  "Exelon has good paying jobs.  I want to protect those jobs – I want to keep them.  I want to keep those plants open.  We also have to balance that with protecting our rate payers and our taxpayers.  You know, this is a large corporation that’s asking for a bailout to keep some operations going.  This is not an easy solution.”

After Rauner's remarks, Mitchell told the News-Gazette he disagreed with Rauner calling the measure a ‘bailout’, but is seeking a level playing field.  Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) says keeping nuclear energy production up could ultimately protect customers' wallets.

"What do you think's going to happen when you lose 20 percent baseload capacity on the grid?," he said. "Rates are going through the roof. So I would rather take a capped increase for consumers - that protects consumers by putting caps in place - and gives us a chance at keeping our jobs."

Rose says that's better than for sure losing the nuclear plant jobs - with a potential for "unlimited" rate spikes. 

Exelon spokesman Brett Nauman says it becomes harder to reverse the company’s decision with each week that passes, since it’s making financial commitments to close the plants. He calls mid-September the drop dead date for Exelon to change its mind. 

Exelon is still lobbying for the legislation in Springfield. An email obtained by The Associated Press that Exelon President and CEO Chris Crane sent to employees also urged them to call a phone number and record a message in favor of the legislation - for lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The telephone number's greeting encourages employees to say immediate legislative action could save the plants.