Illinois Gov. Rauner signs bill sparing 2 nuclear plants

By John O'Connor, AP Political Writer

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has approved a plan providing billions of dollars in subsidies to Exelon Corp. to keep two unprofitable nuclear plants from closing prematurely.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner celebrates after signing Senate Bill 2814, the Future Energy Jobs Bill, at a ceremony at Riverdale High School Wednesday, in Port Byron, Ill. (Todd Mizener/The Dispatch via AP)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has approved a plan providing billions of dollars in subsidies to Exelon Corp. to keep two unprofitable nuclear plants from closing prematurely.

The Republican appeared at Riverdale High School in Port Byron on Wednesday to sign legislation he said will save thousands of jobs by rewarding Exelon for producing carbon-free energy.

In addition to $235 million a year for Exelon to prop up nuclear plants in the Quad Cities and Clinton, the plan provides hundreds of millions of dollars in energy-efficiency programs and assistance to low-income energy users.

"I was unwilling to gamble with these communities, gamble with thousands of good-paying jobs and gamble with our energy future," Rauner said in a prepared statement. "While this legislation isn't perfect, it allows us to protect jobs, ratepayers and taxpayers."

The law ensures the plants in Cordova and Clinton stay open for 10 years, caps the increase in ratepayer bills at an average of 25 cents a month for the 13-year life of the deal and allows for expansion of alternative power generators, such as wind and solar.

Exelon said in a statement that the measure, known as the Future Energy Jobs Bill, "safeguards the state's top source of clean energy, protects and creates thousands of jobs and strengthens the Illinois economy, while preserving competitive rates."

Rauner previously criticized "special deals" for corporations, but last week said closing the plants would have "devastated the two communities."

Critics, such as BEST Coalition, a nonprofit that opposes the deal, says the nuclear plants aren't needed because Illinois produces 41 percent more energy than it needs and exports the excess. BEST Coalition also says subsidizing the plants will mean a steep increase in rates.

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