News Local/State

State Rep. Mitchell Pleased Rauner Admistration Weighing In On Exelon Bill

A view of one of the control consoles at the training center of the Exelon Clinton nuclear power station in DeWitt County.

A view of one of the control consoles at the training center of Exelon’s Clinton nuclear power station in DeWitt County. (Photo: Jim Meadows)

One Illinois lawmaker is encouraged that Governor Bruce Rauner and his staff are part of the conversation on legislation to prevent two Illinois nuclear power plants from closing. 

Republican Bill Mitchell’s Illinois House district includes Clinton, the location of one of the Exelon plants.  Mitchell says a memo this week from the Rauner administration has made him hopeful that a bill can pass during next week’s veto session.

"(I'm) hopeful that that memo means that they’re going to get involved in the process, and start being part of the negotiations," Mitchell said.  "I hope the governor’s office does get involved, and we can see this bill move forward.”

Speaking in Chicago this week, Rauner told reporters he wants to protect all the jobs he can at Exelon plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities.  But Rauner said any measure that passes out of the legislature can't mean skyrocketing energy costs for residential and business customers.

“We can’t have our energy costs go through the roof, or we’ll lose more jobs," Rauner said.  "If we raise the energy costs for entrepreneurs that need to consume a lot of energy, they’ll lay people off, saving some jobs at a plant won’t matter.  So we need a balance.”

Earlier this month, legislation passed a House committee, but Exelon and its subsidiary Commonwealth Edison agreed last week to drop a request to change how customers are charged for energy, as well as a plan with subsidies for southern Illinois coal plants.  But the new plan also means Exelon would keep its plants open for another 12 years if it passes, instead of six years as originally scheduled.

Mitchell said that a scaled back version of the Exelon measure is probably the best solution.

“It’s always been my concern that the bill gets so big, it collapses, just like a gaming bill usually does," Mitchell said.  "They get so big, they collapse under their own weight. The alternative to have no bill is not good for the state of Illinois.”

Rauner said that the ongoing negotiations are creating a "very fluid situation."

"Our administration has been heavily into the detail of it, and ideas are popping very very rapidly, and change," Rauner said.  " (The) big thing to me is, we’ve got to protect all the jobs we can. We’ve got to protect rate payers, and protect tax payers, make sure we stay competitive.”

Exelon has said that if lawmakers don't pass legislation to help the nuclear plants during this month's veto session, it will be too late to reverse the closing process for the Clinton plant, which has already started.  The final days of the veto session are scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday of next week.