Local lawmakers react to clean energy bill passing the Illinois Senate

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – A bill that could create a clean energy future for Illinois takes another step forward.

Late Tuesday night, state senators passed Senate Bill 18, which would shift the state to 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

Senator Dave Koehler- Peoria (D) voted in favor of the legislation, he said the main focus is the environment.

“We have to do everything we can to make sure that we protect the environment of the ravages of too much carbon in our atmosphere,” Koehler said.

The bill calls for measures like putting one million electric vehicles on Illinois roadways over the next 9 years.

“We very well could become the electric vehicle hub of the United States. We’ve got Rivian over in Normal,” Koehler said.

It would also create the closure of most private coal-powered plants by 2030 and municipally owned ones by 2045.

“The reality is there isn’t a long life expectancy for coal, coal is just not economically viable anymore,” Koehler said.

Senator Win Stoller- Germantown Hills (R) said most agree that a transition to clean energy is necessary, but he does have some concerns with the current bill.

“We need to do it in a reasonable timeframe that doesn’t raise rates unnecessarily or risk the reliability of our energy grid,” Stoller said.

Stoller said the dates set to close coal-powered plants throughout the state could also jeopardize jobs.

“It’s simply not enough time to transition to other types of power plants and renewable energy sources,” Stoller said.

But Koehler explains that he believes there will be job growth, citing major companies making clean energy a priority. He also said there is language in the bill to help retrain workers and make them part of the shift to renewables.

“We’re trying to take an aggressive approach and do the right things. Do the things that are inevitable, but make sure that we protect people and transition them into good-paying jobs,” Koehler said.

Stoller said he would like to see the state invest in new nuclear. He says it’s the cleanest, most efficient, and affordable power resource. Koehler also said the state’s nuclear industry needs to be preserved.

Other key issues Stoller said are concerning include the inclusion of eminent domain for private merchant lines within the bill.

“We’re not talking about the government taking land for public use. This bill allows private companies to take your land, so they can profit off of it for private use. Never before has this been done in Illinois,” Stoller said.

He also pointed out a near $700 million dollar bailout of Exelon.

“This is the same company implicated in the bribery scam with Mike Madigan,” Stoller said.

As for rate increases, Koehler says the most he thinks rates will go up is $3, but he explains that it could beneficial later on.

“Illinois is a huge energy-producing state. If we lose 30% of our capacity, those rates are going to go sky-high because all of a sudden we’re having to import energy. So this is a matter of spending a little bit now to save a whole lot later,” Koehler said.

The bill will head to the House next, where changes can be made to the legislation.

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