(The Center Square) – A sweeping bipartisan energy plan for the state of Illinois over the next quarter of a century is now law after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a nearly thousand-page bill.
Pritzker has been pushing for more reliance on renewable energy since he took office. On Wednesday, he signed Senate Bill 2408 in Chicago.
He said extreme weather events are too common and “there is no time to lose.”
“But what we can do, what we must do, and thanks to the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act Illinois is doing is to fight to stop and even reverse the damage that has been done to our climate,” Pritzker said before signing the bill.
The law closes coal-fired power plants by 2045 while giving five years’ worth of ratepayer subsidies for nuclear power plants to the tune of $700 million. But, there is oversight of Exelon that state Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort, said is crucial.
“You will be subject to some of the most sweeping ethics reforms ever to affect the public utility industry and rightly so because you did wrong and you need to be held accountable,” Hastings said.
ComEd, an Exelon subsidiary, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors in 2020. The utility admitted to paying associates of former House Speaker Michael Madigan in money and jobs in order to curry favor with Madigan. Com-Ed agreed to pay a $200 million fine and cooperate in the investigation. Madigan has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime.
State Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dietrich, equated it to a tax increase with everyone paying more.
“$18 billion that’s going to go out over the next 30 years for solar from the Illinois taxpayers,” Niemerg said. “This is all subsidized by us. This is all going to come out of our pockets.”
Other opponents raised concerns about eminent domain issues they say allows private companies to take farm property with no benefit to Illinois.
But, some Republicans were supportive of the bill, like state Rep. David Welter and state Sen. Sue Rezin, both from Morris with nuclear power generation facilities that were slated to close costing thousands of jobs.
Niemerg worried closing coal and natural gas power will cost more jobs as employers find cheaper energy in other states. He didn’t mince words in his opposition to the bill saying for years the narrative has changed from concerns over the ozone layer to global warming, doomsday clocks, to climate change.
“Think about it, it’s just a big money grab and you can continually say ‘oh, we got another five years, we have another ten years, oh, dang we didn’t meet these standards, oh hey it’s okay, we looked at this and it looks like we’ve got a little more time,’” he said. “Folks, it’s a scam. It’s a scam.”
Various business groups, from the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, opposed the bill over increased utility costs and reliability issues.
Various labor and environmental coalitions praised the bill.
“The wait is over, but our work is not,” said a statement from the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition. ”We look forward to collaborating on the implementation of this comprehensive climate and equitable jobs plan to ensure that no one is left behind on Illinois’ path to a 100% clean energy future.”