Illinois hearing focuses on nuclear, renewable energy

regulators on Tuesday that those energy sources should play important roles in helping the state meet tougher federal limits on the pollutants that cause for global warming.

The Illinois Commerce Commission held the second of three meetings to gather input on a plan that must be submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlining how the state will contribute to a sweeping Obama administration proposal to curb carbon dioxide emitted by the nation's power plants by 30 percent by 2030. Each state was given a customized goal — Illinois' is a 33 percent reduction from its 2012 levels — and the flexibility to decide how to reach that target.

Illinois already gets about half of its energy from 11 nuclear reactors, which don't emit carbon dioxide, so preserving those facilities is crucial to meeting that goal, said Kathleen Barrón, senior vice president of federal regulatory affairs and wholesale market policy at Exelon Corp., which owns all of Illinois' nuclear plants

Environmental groups made a push for renewable energy, including wind and solar, saying that it's a better long-term solution than coal or nuclear power. They also said investing in renewable energy was a big economic development opportunity for the state.

The coal industry has warned that the new rules could force power plants to close, costing jobs and potentially hurting the power supply.

The federal rule is expected to be finalized next year.

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