With nuclear plants & jobs at stake, lawmakers set to vote on clean energy deal

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois lawmakers continue to hammer out the final details of a sweeping clean energy bill, set for a vote later this week in Springfield.

For two Illinois power plants and with more than 28,000 jobs on the line, some lawmakers say it’s now or never with much riding on what the House and Gov. JB Pritzker decide. Exelon is set to shut down the Byron plant on Monday and its Dresden station in Morris this coming November unless Springfield lawmakers and Governor Pritzker approve new energy legislation.

Nancy Norton, president and CEO of the Grundy County Economic Development Council, said the loss of the Dresden plant would be devastating. 

“Our neighbors, our friends, our families, they all work at the plant,” Norton said. “The plant is a large part of our community. They’ve been a part of our philanthropic community. They’re a part of our economy.”

The House is set to return Thursday to take up legislation the Senate passed last week. The bill would provide a $700 million bailout for the nuclear plants. The measure also enacts Pritzker’s climate change agenda, which includes 100% carbon-free power by 2050. 

Kent Bugg is the superintendent of Coal City Community Unit School District Number 1. He says the closure of Dresden would blow a massive hole in the school budget.  

“People are extremely nervous,” said Kent Bugg, Superintendent of Coal City Community Unit School District No. 1. “This plant’s been in our community for 50 years. We rely on the $16 million in revenue that we receive every year in property taxes from the Dresden Station. It’s about 50% of our revenue here in the school district.” 

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Then there’s the issue of jobs. There are people directly employed by the plants but also all the jobs connected to them. 

“It is our second-largest employer,” Norton said. “our second-largest property tax base, the jobs that they have are jobs that you support a family.”

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