Last-minute amendments slow progress on Exelon Illinois bill as deadline nears
Progress on the Illinois energy legislation aimed at saving two Exelon nuclear power plants was slowed Wednesday evening by the addition of two last minute amendments.
Amendment #4 reflects a Nov. 30 agreement between Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) and Exelon and its Commonwealth Edison utility subsidiary on consumer cost protections.
A fifth amendment was introduced late in the committee session regarding a funding stream to cover costs that the Illinois Commerce Commission would bear under the legislation.
Last minute changes to the bill, SB 2814, also removed funding for a microgrid that would have been built by Exelon.
The Exelon legislation includes many moving parts and has gone through nearly 30 rounds of changes at this point. The bill was heading for a possible final vote on Wednesday when two new amendments surfaced.
Amendment #4 was voted out of committee Wednesday night on a 9-1 vote. Amendment #5 had not been voted on at press time.
If the fifth amendment moves out of committee, the bill would move back to the House floor for a vote on Thursday. If passed, it could move to Senate for a final vote. Thursday is the final day of the General Assembly’s veto session.
Amendment #4 includes protections that limit the cost effect of the legislation to all business classes at 1.3% compared to their 2015 rates and caps the impact on residential customers at 25 cents per month for the average ComEd residential customer. Ameren business and residential customers received similar protections.
The energy bill gained last minute support from environmental advocates when provisions to limit net metering, subsidize downstate coal plants and impose residential demand charges were removed.
The last-minute agreement with Gov. Rauner also adds crucial support for the bill if it is approved by legislators, but the measure still has vocal opponents.
At the Wednesday evening committee meeting, Susan Satter, an attorney in the attorney general’s office said the AG needed more time to review the new amendments and called the bill “unworkable in its current form.”
The greatly revised bill also drew criticism from the Nuclear Energy Information Service, an anti-nuclear power group, which called it “a ‘wealth transfer’ of billions of dollars from [Illinois] ratepayers to Exelon’s shareholders.”
In Wednesday hearings other groups, such as Illinois Manufacturers Association, the Chemical Industry Council and the Illinois Petroleum Council, also criticized the legislation as jobs killer. Jim Watson, executive director of the Illinois Petroleum Council, told lawmakers the legislation would undo the energy deregulation the state began almost 20 years ago.
With its protections for Exelon's at-risk nuclear fleet, the Illinois bill is the latest in a series of state actions to alter the outcomes of wholesale electricity markets — a trend some analysts speculate could lead to the re-regulation of the electric utility sector in some states.
Follow Peter Maloney on Twitter