Energy plan stalls over deadline to shutter coal plants

(The Center Square) – A potential energy deal lawmakers were expected to take up in the Illinois Senate on Tuesday has stalled.

The Senate was called into session to take up an energy deal Gov. J.B. Pritzker wanted to subsidize nuclear energy and lay out a path toward more renewables over the next few decades.

During a Senate committee Tuesday, state Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, said the good news is there was broad agreement on major provisions of the bills, including increasing investments in renewable energy and subsidizing nuclear energy with the goal of having 100% renewable energy sources by 2050.

But, he said the bad news is there’s a difference among stakeholders about whether to order coal-fired plants closed in 2035 or 2045.

“I don’t believe it’s a gigantic gulf,” Cunningham said. “I believe that it is a difference that can be corrected. I don’t think the two parties are too far apart but they are far apart right now and unfortunately, because of that the work of the working group has stalled.”

The governor, Cunningham said, wants an aggressive timeline to shut down coal-fired power plants by 2035, but he said labor groups want a date of 2045, depending on carbon sequestration provisions.

“Either one of them, if they become law, would make Illinois a leader in this country on decarbonization, arguably the leader in decarbonization,” Cunningham said.

Another element state Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, said is still outstanding is paying prevailing wage for clean energy jobs.

“If the money runs out, it is what is the backup plan for that and we’re going to have those discussions,” Castro said. “I feel comfortable and confident that we will land on something that’s agreeable by everybody.”

It’s unclear when such a plan would advance. The House is in session on Wednesday.

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