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Standoff could be coming over Illinois' nuke plants' tax demands

Rep says plants will close if lawmakers don't work out a deal

BLOOMINGTON – Gov. Bruce Rauner said Friday he hasn’t had a chance to review legislation proposed to help financially struggling nuclear power plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities, but he considers nuclear power important to the state’s “energy mix.”

Answering questions during a visit to Bloomington, Rauner said, “Nuclear plants have a lot of good-paying jobs” that he doesn’t want to lose.

But he added, “I’m concerned when a big company says in order to stay in Illinois, they need a big taxpayer subsidy.”

Exelon Generation, owner of the two plants, said the Next Generation Energy Plan unveiled Thursday contains financial relief needed to keep the two nuclear plants open.

The Exelon Generation proposal would create a new zero emission standard that would let nuclear plants take advantage of financial breaks available to low-carbon sources like wind and solar power. A company executive said “will create a level playing field for all clean energy sources to compete.”

In comments on first-quarter earnings Friday, Exelon CEO Chris Crane said he has been given authority from the board of directors to begin the process of early retirement for the two money-losing plants if a legislative solution is not reached before the end of the spring session in 4 weeks.

The Clinton and Quad Cities plants lost $800 million between 2009 and 2015, said Crane.

“We can no longer continue to sustain the ongoing losses,” said Crane, adding that “we’ve done all we can up to this point.”

A state study of the impact of closing the two plants shows the loss of about 4,200 jobs and $1.2 billion in economic activity tied within 4 years of closure.

Nuclear plants lose out on the subsidies paid to solar and wind firms in 30 states, including Illinois, under the state-based renewable portfolio standards.

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