Growing cloud of corruption shouldn’t slow action on green energy bill

Legislators have a chance to move Illinois toward a greener energy future, so they need to overcome their fears about subpoenas delivered to ComEd.

By the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board | Chicago Sun-TImes

“Unsurprisingly, Springfield is captivated by a widening corruption scandal that most recently led to charges against state Rep. Luis Arroyo and the revelation that a state senator was wearing a wire for the FBI.

But the Legislature must remain focused on the job at hand — passing good and substantive legislation — and we see a particularly urgent opportunity to move Illinois toward a greener energy future. We urge action on this though we fully understand that lawmakers are nervous about voting on anything remotely involving Exelon and ComEd, which have received federal subpoenas.

On Tuesday, members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition gathered at the state Capitol to remind lawmakers that failing to act could drive up electric power bills, put a cork in the state’s laudable momentum toward more solar energy, deny assistance to workers displaced by coal plant closures, undermine efforts to put more electric vehicles on the road and slow the transition from fossil fuels.

All these pressing issues are addressed in legislation dubbed the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

Conventional wisdom in Illinois says the only way to win enough votes for green energy initiatives is to obtain support from the politically powerful big utilities, such as ComEd and Exelon, by mixing in some of their priorities. A green energy bill that passed in 2016, for example, included credits for Exelon’s nuclear plants.

But rather than wait for the corruption cloud to lift, the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition voted last week to press ahead without negotiating with the utilities. It helps their cause that Exelon supports in principle a key provision of the coalition’s bill that would give more support to renewable and nuclear energy rather than fossil fuels.

Passing an energy bill is always a heavy lift in Springfield, and especially in a short fall veto session. On the bright side, lawmakers have a unique opportunity to demonstrate they are not beholden to the utilities.

A recent unexpected delay in a ruling by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that could drive up power rates in Illinois — because of our state’s favorable treatment of renewable and nuclear energy — may have legislators thinking they can put off action on the Clean Energy Jobs Act until next year. But the bill is about more than holding down power rates, as we noted above. And every day of delay is another bad day for the planet.

Renewable energy is a growing part of the future in Illinois. The days when energy policy is all about ComEd and Exelon are drawing to a close.”

Read the entire article at the Chicago Sun-Times.