Bill passage expected to save Byron plant


The Illinois Senate is expected to pass an energy bill today with incentives aimed at saving the Byron Generating Station.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has said he will sign the bill into law, “as soon as possible.”

With the Byron nuclear station set to close today, area officials who have been keeping a very close eye on the process were optimistic after the Illinois House passed the bill on Sept. 9.

“SB2408 is another step towards achieving the goal to keep Byron Nuclear Station operational and the State of Illinois achieving their clean energy goals,” said Erin Folk, executive director of the Oregon park District and part of FAIRCOM (Fair Assessment Information Resource Committee). “I have remained optimistic throughout this process and I am confident the Senate will push us past the finish line on Monday.”

Exelon has said the Station would close today if the measure was not passed. In fact, power was already being reduced at the Byron station even before the bill was passed by the House, said Paul Adams, senior manager for corporate communications with Exelon.

Exelon did not have a comment in reaction to the vote on Thursday, but did point to a what the company has said earlier.

“With so much at stake for our employees, plant communities, consumers and the environment, we have gone to extraordinary lengths and considerable cost to establish off-ramps that will allow us to reverse the retirement of Byron up until the last moment. That includes ordering fuel for the plant that can be redirected to another of our nuclear units if legislation fails, and prepositioning hundreds of outside contractors to either refuel or defuel the plant. As we have said before, Monday, Sept. 13, is the day we will need to either commence work on refueling or begin the process of permanently defueling the plant and removing it from service. There is no option for extending that deadline past Monday,” the statement read.

The bill includes nearly $700 million in incentives for the Byron and Dresden stations. Dresden is scheduled to be shut down later this year.

As reported by Reuters, Illinois Senate President Don Harmon said the Senate will vote on the bill today.

“Today, with the House passage of SB 2408, the State of Illinois is one historic step closer to reaching a 100 percent clean energy future,” Pritzker said Thursday. “I look forward to SB 2408’s swift passage in the Senate, and signing it into law as soon as possible, because our planet and the people of Illinois ought not wait any longer.”

The votes come more than a year after the closure was announced. Exelon Generation announced on Aug. 27, 2020 that it intended to retire its Byron Generating Station and Dresden Generating Station in fall 2021. Community leaders immediately jumped into action to save the station, which provides about 700 jobs as well as millions in local tax revenues.

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.

There are also the charitable donations giving by the station, which Dempsey said amount to about $250,000. Donations have gone to Rock River Center in Oregon, Pinecrest Community in Mount Morris, Hub City Senior Center and many others.

The Byron CUSD #226 paid for the economic impact study, and it showed that about 74 percent of the district’s revenue comes from the Byron Station.

The study showed that the Byron Station’s direct contribution to the regional economy (GDP) is estimated to be more than $288 million. That is 1.6 percent of the total GDP of the region. For the Ogle County, Byron Station’s total contribution to the economy is estimated to be $338 million; 17 percent of the county’s total GDP.