Sunday, May 30, 2021
The last phase of Exelon’s “Nuclear Hostage Crisis” is playing out in the final legislative negotiations over a comprehensive state energy future. Once again Exelon and its labor allies are the tail attempting to wag the dog by pushing for unrealistic nuclear bailouts as ransom for a clean energy future.
Exelon’s 11th-hour intransigence comes after months of intense, painstaking negotiations among numerous interests to craft a comprehensive energy bill that sought to expand renewable energy, protect communities and workers adversely affected by plant closures, expand job and business equity and just-transitions, and address the climate crisis.
This last-minute impasse cause by Exelon and its labor allies threaten all of those goals.
The facts are clear. Governor Pritzker’s independent Synergy audit performed using data they were given by Exelon concluded that no more than $350 million over five years is rationally justified, perhaps even less if energy prices increase. Any amount awarded above that is simply unjustifiable political pork and hostage ransom.
While labor leaders, workers and communities are justifiably alarmed by the effects of plant closures, they should in no way be surprised. Every reactor has a publicly known shut-down date on its NRC-approved operating license. Competent planners prepare for losing its company-town employer.
Since 2014 the environmental community and legislative allies have been urging adoption of legislation creating “just-transitions” programs to soften the economic blows and prepare for those inevitable closures. These proposals were met with a thunderous round of indifference to mild hostility by both Exelon and labor leaders when the 2016 FEJA legislation was passed. They have not embraced it since, even though it is even more robustly developed in current legislative proposals. Instead, like Aesop’s fabled grasshopper, they call on the legislature to turn Illinois ratepayers into their ATM machine, and bail out reactors yet again.
And is anyone politically naive (read: “dumb”) enough to believe that this would be the last time Exelon will come to the legislature crying poverty?
The Governor has repeatedly stated that utilities would no longer be writing energy legislation. He needs to stand firm on that pledge. Capitulating to a company which has long relied on allegedly illegal and corrupt lobbying practices, in defiance of the facts obtained by an independent audit based on Exelon-provided data not only rewards and perpetuates the “nuclear hostage crisis”, it kills renewable energy, insures that communities will not be protected from the harms of future plant closures, and thwarts addressing the climate crisis.
Light bulb: you can’t build an energy future by bailing out the past. Time to end Exelon’s “nuclear hostage crisis” — permanently.