Nuke decision never should have taken this long


As I write this, we are less than a week away from the Byron Station closing its doors for good. And I have no idea if it is going to stay open or not.

That is not a good thing.

I would like to say right from the top here that I do not work for Exelon. I have never worked for Exelon. I am not a paid spokesman for anyone, except my wife when she insists on it. And honestly, she doesn’t pay me.

We learned last year that Exelon was planning to close the Byron nuke plant without a bill that it found was more favorable to its nuclear operations. This obviously sent a shockwave through Ogle County and local officials jumped into action.

The signs in support of the station sprouted in yards all over the county, most heavily in Byron. People worried about their home values, their jobs, their schools, their parks. And they were – and are – right to worry. The Byron Generating Station pumps millions into the county and has for decades.

If that money spigot runs dry, make no mistake that it will hurt. It will hurt a lot.

I am writing this a week before the station is scheduled to run out of fuel and close its doors. I don’t plan on going back to change this column if an energy bill is passed, or if something else pops up that will prolong the life of the station.

I want to talk about being here, in this moment, and not having any idea what is going to happen. I can’t imagine how the people who work at the station feel. Their livelihoods are on the line. Will they have a job in a week? What about that house payment? Will their kids be staying at area schools?

All good questions that would concern anyone. And I have no idea what the answers are for them. They don’t either … right now, in this moment.

Neither do the politicians in Springfield, and in my opinion, that shows a clear failure of leadership. They have had more than a year to pass a new energy bill that addresses this and they have failed to do so. Failed. They are a failure.

Democrats? Failures. Republicans? Failures. Gov. JB Pritzker? A failure. Sure, Pritzker has all along said he supports the stations and wants a good bill, but he obviously has zero power over those in his own party in the state House. The buck stops with him, and this will be his loss.

And Republicans don’t get off the hook either. Yes, they are in the minority, but when all I ever see out of Springfield is partisan bickering, how can we ever expect anything to get done? Work across the aisle for the good of the people. Give and take. Compromise. When you don’t do that, you fail.

There is still a chance this bill can be completed and signed. That might happen Thursday, when I put the paper together. It could happen Friday, when the paper prints. It could happen when it is being stacked in area retail locations.

Or it might not happen at all, despite all of those saying they feel “positive” about the bill being passed.

Well, I wish I had confidence that those in Springfield were working hard to get it done. But excuse me while I turn a skeptical eye toward a group of elected men and women who have failed to get this done for more than a year.

They have failed us with the process thus far, even if they pull out a bill at the 11th hour they have failed. It is hard to have faith in people who do their jobs so poorly.