The battlefront in Exelon's campaign to manipulate EPA regulations and preserve billions in profits ("The EPA's Utility Men," Review & Outlook, Dec. 23) can be found in our small community in central Illinois. A clean-coal power generation plant we have been pursuing for a decade is poised for approval by the Illinois senate. But Exelon is pulling out all the stops to kill the Taylorville Energy Center.Clean Energy. Tribune letter to the editor:
In Taylorville, we are seeing firsthand how Exelon is trying to "game the process" to achieve an agenda that is about lining their own pockets by shutting out competing energy sources. And we are in the fight of our lives.
Among the tools is a misinformation campaign in which CEO John Rowe tells investors one thing, while Exelon's lobbyists in Springfield tell legislators the exact opposite. Mr. Rowe is accurately quoted in the Journal saying that "EPA regulations will affect both capacity and energy markets, and will do so sooner than many think." When that happens, as Mr. Rowe says, "the upside to Exelon is unmistakable" and would add as much as "$800 million in new revenue."
Yet in their efforts to defeat what Exelon accurately sees as a threat to that windfall, the company's lobbyists pretend that stricter EPA rules won't necessarily reduce energy production from Exelon's competitors. An Exelon lobbyist recently told legislators, "We don't need any new baseload. The speculation on the closure of baseload plants is just that; it's speculation."
Despite Exelon's obvious attempts to confuse legislators, the Illinois house approved the bill authorizing the Taylorville Energy Center and sent it to the senate a few weeks ago. Overnight, an army of Exelon executives and lobbyists appeared in the state capital to turn up the pressure.
Perhaps we were naïve, but until the Exelon invasion, we could not imagine anyone opposing a project that will create 2,500 construction jobs, reinvigorate the Illinois coal industry, and create thousands of permanent jobs.
I'm sure this letter will bring a chuckle from Mr. Rowe and his fellow utility men. We hope the Illinois senate votes to wipe the smirks off their faces.
Greg Brotherton, Mayor
City of Taylorville, Ill.
The debate on whether Illinois should move forward with the Taylorville Energy Center, which could come up for a vote in the Senate this week, has focused on speculation about the cost to ratepayers and the economy of building and operating the plant.Can a bankrupt Illinois afford to throw these jobs away? Can we afford higher energy prices?
If the bill is defeated, here is what will happen next: Nothing. Defeat would mean no next-generation, environmentally clean power plants, fueled by Illinois coal, would be built in the foreseeable future. Defeat would mean no new clean-coal plants would replace old, inefficient plants. Defeat would mean shortages in baseload power, leading to significant increases in wholesale power prices. Defeat would mean the Illinois coal industry will continue to lose markets for its product, resulting in job losses, while foregoing new markets. Defeat would mean that Illinois would turn its back on 2,500 new construction jobs, more than 16,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction, hundreds of permanent jobs and more than $8 billion of economic output, according to a University of Illinois study. Defeat would mean Illinois would give up on clean-coal power projects for the foreseeable future.
Illinois has an opportunity to become the national leader in advanced-technology clean-coal power generation. Approval of the Taylorville project will pave the way for other projects, giving Illinois a head start on building the baseload power system of the future. In Illinois, coal plants produce half the electricity, and 90 percent of those facilities are more than 30 years old. Federal environmental emissions standards are being significantly tightened, and plant owner-operators are most likely to choose retirement rather than bear the costs of meeting the new standards. It's estimated that more than 40 percent of the state's coal plants will close by 2025. What will replace them? The loss of 40 percent of the state's coal-fueled generating capacity translates to baseload power shortages, and shortages mean big increases in electricity costs. Illinois has a decision to make. It can invest in a future of clean, efficient, economical generation that will position the state as a leader in the world's most advanced clean-energy technology, prove Illinois coal can be used in an environmentally responsible manner, boost the state's economy and help stabilize energy prices for decades. Or it can cave in to powerful interests that have only their own economic futures in mind and are fighting competition like Taylorville.
Construction of clean, efficient plants has a cost, but the cost of doing nothing will be higher.
— Bart D. Ford, vice president, Tenaska, Omaha, Neb.
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