The Illinois Senate goes home without passing the clean energy plan and hopes to return later this summer

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Negotiations for a clean energy plan in Springfield ran into another roadblock on Tuesday. The Senate adjourned without approving an energy bill just hours after dozens of supporters gathered outside the Capitol.

Clean energy groups want Illinois to get out of coal entirely by 2035. Organized groups of workers agree with this idea. Still, they want to keep the Prairie State and Springfield coal-fired power plants open until 2045. That would only happen if the power plants could capture and store 90% of their greenhouse gas emissions by 2035.

“Both of them, if passed into law, would make Illinois a leader in this country in decarbonization, arguably a leader in decarbonization,” said Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago). “Any suggestion would do that.”

Many proponents were upset when the Senate left without accomplishing its goals. Rev. Mike Atty led the rally outside the Capitol Complex on Tuesday morning.

“This battle for fossil fuels, the end of the use of fossil fuels to feed our communities and cities, is necessary because our children need to breathe,” Atty said.

Fifty lawmakers previously said they would not vote in favor of a plan that would allow the city’s two coal-fired power plants to remain operational beyond 2035. This could lead to very difficult votes on the energy law in both chambers this year.

Discussion on clean energy continues

Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said his chamber was ready, willing and able to return to Springfield once all sides have reached an agreement on the decarbonization timetable. However, this does not help thousands of union workers at Exelon’s nuclear power plants, which are likely to close anytime soon.

The Pritzker administration is hoping to provide nearly $ 700 million to Exelon to save jobs at the utility’s nuclear power plants. Harmon said he would help these workers on Tuesday.

“The General Assembly is not trying to close these plants. Exelon threatens to close the plants. We’re trying to help them, ”stressed Harmon. “We are ready to do something very important. I will bite my tongue on some other thoughts. But we are the ones trying to help them and we will help them.”

Harmon hopes Exelon will wait with this decision until they see a final plan from Springfield. Republicans close to the negotiations say there weren’t enough votes to support the Pritzker administration’s plan.

“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t pass a law to keep our nuclear power plants open,” said Senator Sue Rezin (R-Morris). “This is a bill that we have been working on for a good year and a half, and we agreed on the nuclear part of the bill.”

Rezin also argues that Pritzker had unrealistic demands in his bill, with proposals that “cost thousands of jobs and potentially increase our utility bills by up to 20 percent”.

Administration responds

Meanwhile, the governor’s office announced it had put forward a comprehensive plan to make significant progress on climate change and preserve union jobs. Press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh said her bill was the result of dozens of working group meetings over the past year. She highlighted the ability of the bill to double Illinois’ commitment to renewable energy and move the state closer to a 100% clean energy economy by 2050.

Abudayyeh noted the specific tradeoff for Prairie State and Springfields City Water Light & Power if they achieve 90% carbon capture by 2034. She also said the bill could help Illinois become “the best place in the country to make an electric car.”

“In addition to all of these critical climate proposals, the bill leads to the necessary ethics and transparency reforms. The Senate decided not to adopt this bill today, ”Abudayyeh said.

Proponents deeply disappointed

The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition noted that Harmon announced on June 1 that he was standing with Pritzker on the decarbonization goals required in a final deal.

“Thousands of trade unionists and solar installers could lose their jobs now as the climate crisis worsens and black and brown communities continue to struggle,” coalition members said. “We are deeply disappointed that the Senate was adjourned without taking action for a carbon-free energy future, but we are ready to implement the governor’s plan as soon as possible.”

Deputy Governor Christian Mitchell was hoping to testify before the Senate Energy Committee on Tuesday morning. Members did not, however, urge Mitchell to discuss Pritzker’s bill. In a written testimony to the committee, the former Democratic legislature noted that the government had moved significantly. However, Mitchell also stated that the other side had barely moved during the negotiations.

“Everything we were told was necessary for an agreement – including an exemption for carbon capture, which is heartburn for both the governor and environmentalists – is now in place. And at some point a progressive climate law is no longer a climate law, ”said Mitchell. “Going further is the turning point.”

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