Power suppliers ask court to halt Exelon subsidies

By Cole Lauterbach 
Illinois News Network

A group of power suppliers is asking a federal court to put on hold a new Illinois law that spends billions in additional utility dollars to keep two nuclear power plants open.

The Electric Power Supply Association and other power companies argue the legislation passed in December violates the U.S. Constitution and sends nuclear power company Exelon billions in ratepayer subsidies.

The suit filed on March 31 says Illinois is violating federal law by giving Exelon rate credits based on market power costs. They say the Zero Emissions Credit program violates the Supremacy Clause and Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Texas-based Dynegy runs a number of coal-fired plants in Illinois and joined in the suit.

“All it does is force consumers, businesses, residents, to pay higher energy bills, only for the financial benefit of one company,” Dean Ellis, vice president of Regulatory Affairs at Dynegy, said. He gave an ominous warning about the fate of their employees in southern Illinois if the courts didn’t stop the law from taking effect.

“For years, our employees have worked to do exactly what was asked of them, that is be the best, most efficient and lowest-cost operator,” Ellis said. “With the state picking winners and losers through this illegal subsidy only to benefit one company, it just puts their jobs at risk.”

Dynegy directly employs hundreds throughout southern and central Illinois and, they say, indirectly employs thousands more workers.

In response to the threat of job losses, Congressman Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, said every measure should be taken to keep all energy sources operating in the state.

“We’ve got to make sure that all of our resources stay and are willing to work together,” he said. “We’ve got to treat them with the respect they need to make sure that they’ll generate that electricity. We’ve got to make sure that our producers are here.”

A spokesman with Exelon responded to the filing: “These filings miss the point that states have the right to protect families from air pollution by favoring cleaner resources of power, and also reveal that the objections to the FEJA by these companies that have long been closing coal plants in Illinois have little to do with protecting consumers and everything to do with protecting their profits.”

The Illinois-based nuclear power company said last summer that the Clinton nuclear plant and one located near the Quad Cities would likely be decommissioned if lawmakers couldn’t pass legislation granting them green-energy credits that would allow them to modernize the plants and keep them profitable.

The law takes effect June first.

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