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Exelon legislation still in play

SPRINGFIELD — A state senator from Chicago plans to use the General Assembly’s upcoming fall veto session to continue pushing legislation that Exelon Corp. says is essential to the future of its financially struggling Quad-Cities and Clinton nuclear power plants.

Sen. Donne Trotter, a Democrat, made the statement Tuesday in Chicago during a forum on Illinois’ nuclear energy industry hosted by the University of Illinois’ nuclear engineering department and the Illinois AFL-CIO. The event, titled “Nuclear Power: What it Means in Illinois,” included officials from the U.S. Department of Energy, representatives from organized labor, federal and state lawmakers, local officials and other experts.

After Illinois lawmakers ended their regular spring legislative session without approving Exelon’s proposed “Next Generation Energy Plan,” the Chicago-based company announced that it would move forward with plans to shutter the Clinton Power Station next year and the Quad-Cities Generating Station in June 2018.

But Trotter and other sponsors of the legislation, including Republican state Sens. Chapin Rose of Mahomet and Neil Anderson of Rock Island, say negotiations with Exelon, environmental and consumer groups, the renewable energy industry and downstate utility Ameren Illinois have continued in the intervening months.

“It’s coming together, and hopefully by the time we get back on Nov. 15, there’ll be enough consensus that we can move forward with it and get it through the Senate as well as the House,” Trotter said, noting that some House members were in attendance and that House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, made a brief appearance.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the speaker is waiting to review the final version of the legislation before taking a position.

Exelon, which has lost a combined $800 million on the two plants over the past seven years, says the state’s current energy policy doesn’t properly value the “economic, environmental and reliability benefits” of nuclear power. It’s seeking subsidies for its nuclear operations similar to those given to the wind and solar energy industries.

Experts who spoke at Tuesday’s forum said nuclear power, which doesn’t produce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, will be a key component in helping the United States achieve its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

“Sustaining the current fleet of nuclear power plants and building new nuclear capacity can play an important role in meeting this goal and is also critical if the U.S. is to maintain its global leadership as the world looks to nuclear power to meet its clean energy needs,” said John Kotek, acting secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

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