State Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis) and State Rep. Paul Jacobs (R-Pomona) announced this week that they have signed on to a comprehensive package of energy-focused legislation that claims it would restore Southern Illinois’ coal-fired power plant industry, ease the pain being felt by downstate energy customers due to recent massive spikes in costs, and eliminate bureaucratic red tape that prevents power plants from coming online.
Rep. Windhorst said the 2021 Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), bailed out nuclear power plants in the northern part of the state and punished southern Illinois utility providers and their customers.
“I favor an all-of-the-above approach to providing energy to our citizens, but CEJA simply went too far too fast,” Windhorst said in a press release. “The result has been a dramatic and devastating spike in the cost of energy for regular people, working families, seniors on fixed incomes, and businesses of all sizes. The legislation I’m sponsoring along with several of my colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle is aimed at restoring coal and natural gas as integral parts of Illinois’ energy portfolio. We have a massive amount of these resources right under our feet. It makes no sense at all to abandon clean coal technology and to ship Illinois coal to other states where they burn it and we are forced to buy electricity from them in order to have sufficient supply. The result of the legislative package I have signed on to would mean lower costs, a more stable electric grid, and the return of jobs in the energy sector using resources we have available right here at home.”
Rep. Jacobs said he also voted no on CEJA and warned his colleagues that brownouts and blackouts and huge energy cost spikes were in store if the legislation advanced.
“Our warnings about blackouts and brownouts and the threat to the grid by arbitrarily imposing closure dates on our coal-fired power and natural gas power plants fell on deaf ears, and Governor Pritzker signed off on the legislation with no regard for the impact it would have on Southern Illinois,” Jacobs said. “I am hearing from Ameren customers that their bills have gone up this summer as much as 400% in some cases. Businesses of all sizes, working families, and seniors are all feeling the pinch of higher food and gas prices, and are now being whacked by unsustainable and unaffordable higher energy costs. We can bring down the price of energy and restore our own energy independence by using our vast natural resources to power the grid. The legislation I’m sponsoring along with Rep. Windhorst, Rep. Severin, and several of my colleagues from throughout downstate Illinois would stabilize our electric grid, cut energy costs across the board, and eliminate bureaucratic barriers to bringing new power plants online. This is about providing our citizens with the reliable, affordable, efficient, and sustainable power they need and deserve.”
HB 5780 would repurpose $10 million from fees already collected by Illinois ratepayers for renewables for the purpose of retrofitting coal and natural gas plants with carbon capturing technology. The bill also includes the creation of a new Power Grid Task Force to study the effect of state laws, including CEJA, on energy prices as well as grid reliability. The task force would also be charged with exploring ways to improve the power supply mix within the state using existing energy resources and new technologies, with the stated goal of ensuring the future stability and reliability of Illinois’ power grid. The bill will consider the present and future needs of Illinois consumers while simultaneously addressing any issues related to the performance and reliability of power generation in Illinois.
HB 5781 repeals the forced 2045 closure date for coal and natural gas power plants that was implemented under the provisions of CEJA, which was signed by Pritzker in 2021. They said the bill would also allow companies to build new gas peaker plants “without the fear of forced closure” to ensure Illinois’ grid will be able to meet its demand. HB 5782 would eliminate “red tape” at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that has been preventing new power plants from coming online in a timely manner by expediting the state permitting process.