The landmark law in Illinois that provides support for the Quad Cities and Clinton nuclear power plants –both of them owned by Exelon Corporation – may be decided in a court battle, as fossil-fuel based power generators have filed a lawsuit claiming the law skews the purpose of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's energy market auctions.
The lawsuit challenging the Illinois statute was expected. It was filed by a group of nuclear power competitors in the state, including Houston-based Dynegy, which claims the law passed last year to keep the two struggling nuclear power plants in business “will profoundly disrupt the FERC-approved energy market auction structure and result in the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars a year of ratepayer funds to Exelon at the expense of other generators that would have been economically viable without discriminatory subsidies.”
The lawsuit appears to have created what might be considered strange bedfellows. The law also benefited renewable power businesses, while purported to help Exelon with subsidies of up to $235 million per year by virtue of the nuclear power industry's no-carbon emissions track record. Due to the lawsuit, environmental groups, renewable power companies and Exelon are all being challenged together.
“The Future Energy Jobs Bill was the most important climate bill in Illinois history, and the only major Climate bill happening anywhere in the country right now,” the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition said in a statement. “Passage of the Future Energy Jobs Bill is a victory for people in every community across Illinois who deserve more jobs, lower electric bills and healthier air to breathe,” the group said.
“Today's lawsuit suggests that big polluting industries would rather shackle Illinoisans to higher costs and dangerous fuels of the past rather than invest in Illinois' bright clean energy future," the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition said.
Exelon pointed out that federal policies already skewed the power generation market by favoring one group over the others, namely renewable power sources. The company also defended the state's right to take a stand on climate change. “Exelon opposes misguided and parochial efforts to block state lawmakers from taking legitimate steps to protect the environment and promote sound economic policies for their citizens," the company said in a statement.
The Future Energy Jobs Bill was motivated by the need to preserve both jobs and the environment. However, it will cost about 3.5 ComEd ratepayers in northern Illinois about 25 cents per month for the life of the plan and 1.2 million Ameren ratepayers – in central and southern Illinois – about 12 cents per month, according to Exelon, the Associated Press reported. Crain's Chicago Business put that figure at $2 per month on average throughout the state.
Crain's also reported that the law in Illinois might be “vulnerable,” as a bill aimed at ensuring a minimum revenue for a natural gas fired plant in Maryland was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.
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