A new bipartisan bill aimed at supporting nuclear power in Illinois is working its way through the state Senate and House.
According to a release by the Byron Station Response Committee (BSRC), a version of this bill, called the Climate Union Jobs Act (CUJA), could be passed in the coming weeks. The committee calling on the public's help to generate support and passage of this legislation.
“We are hopeful it will pass out of committee in the near future and be brought to the Senate floor for discussion and action,” said Byron #226 Superintendent Buster Barton.
Exelon Generation announced on Aug. 27, 2020 that it intends to retire its Byron Generating Station and Dresden Generating Station in fall 2021. Byron will close in September 2021. That would mean not only the loss of about 700 jobs, but it will also mean the loss of millions of dollars in taxes locally. Paul Dempsey, Communications Manager of the Byron station, said that the station’s 2017 tax bill was more than $38 million. The taxes went to a variety of taxing bodies, including the Byron School District, Ogle County and the Byron Museum and Library District.
In a release, the BSRC said it supports the Climate Union Jobs Act (CUJA), which is sponsored by Illinois Representatives Lawrence Walsh Jr. (D-Joliet) and David Welter (R-Morris), as well as Senators Sue Rezin (R-Morris) and Michael Hastings (D-Frankfort).
The legislation aims to preserve the state's nuclear fleet and expand renewable generation, sets labor standards when ratepayer dollars are used, returns to traditional ratemaking, creates a transition plan for communities economically reliant on fossil fuel generation, establishes equity requirements for clean energy jobs, and increases the diversity of the renewable energy sector with new reporting requirements, to name just a few, the release said.
The committee is encouraging area residents to visit its website, www.saveilnuclearpower.com to see ways to support the drive to save the plants.
If the bills do pass, it will be up to Gov. JB Pritzker to sign them into law.
“In terms of gubernatorial support, we believe that this bill is something Gov. Pritzker can get behind and ultimately sign into law,” Barton said. “Among other things, if enacted, the legislation would protect thousands of high paying jobs for Illinois citizens, provide several additional accountability measures for utilities aimed at protecting consumers, keep the electrical grid stable, and push forward the governor’s clean energy efforts within the state.”
The Oregon Park District received $2.7 million in taxes in 2019, with 78 percent of that coming from taxes paid by Exelon. Park District Executive Director Erin Folk has been working with other area officials to help save the plant.
“Over 1,300 witness slips in favor of the legislation were submitted in support of HB1472 and over 1,200 were submitted for SB1100,” Folk said. “Witness slips are important each time a hearing is held for the legislation and typically there is very little notice. A real grass roots effort is taking place to garner support for the legislation. Folks interested in more information can visit https://savebyron.com/.”
The BSRC website, www.saveilnuclearpower.com has easy-to-use links to these Witness Slip forms, as well as additional information on the bill and the groups supporting it, the committee said in a release. Because situations can change quickly in the legislative session, the group is urging all supporters to sign up for emails from the website and is asking them to check the website frequently for updates.
Witness Slips are a first step, but the group expects to move on to letter writing campaigns and telephone call banks. The group’s website has resources regarding handwritten letters of support, proposed telephone scripts for those who would rather call, and a complete list of the addresses and phone numbers of lawmakers who serve on the House and Senate Committees debating the proposed bill.