Community members in Illinois fight for nuclear energy plant

State News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) — Community leaders, residents and elected officials in Illinois are working to keep a nuclear energy company from closing its plant.

In August, Exelon announced that it would close its Byron nuclear power plant in September 2021 and the Dresden Generating Station in Morris two months later, the Rockford Register Star reported.

Following the announcement, the Byron Station Response Committee was formed in September to rally community support and lobby lawmakers to help keep the plant open. A group of local business owners and the Byron School District created the group, which now has 40 members.

The school district’s budget relies on $19.1 million a year in property revenue generated by the plant, which accounts for more than 70% of its budget.

“The absolute is that we have a couple of years where we will receive taxes. After that, it’s up in the air,” said Christine Lynde, the school board’s president. “Will we get something? Yes, (we) will get something. Do we know what that is? Nope, and there is no way to tell.”

To help the cause, the group commissioned an economic impact study that was prepared by Brian Harger, a senior research specialist at Northern Illinois University. The study shows the plant closure putting thousands out of work and possibly stripping $97.5 million in annual employee compensation from the local economy.

Exelon said that legislation would need to be passed by spring 2021 to keep the plant open.

“Declining energy prices and flawed market policies that favor fossil generation have resulted in Byron and Dresden Stations becoming unprofitable and being slated for early retirement in the fall of 2021. The legislative solution needed would properly recognize the environmental value of the carbon-free product produced at Byron Station which also accounts for enormous economic value to the state of Illinois,” Paul Dempsey, the plant’s communication manager, said in an e-mail.

State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said he’s been meeting with colleagues in both chambers to inform lawmakers of the energy challenges in the state.

Demmer said there aren’t any tangible solutions as of now, but he said that any bill that would prevent the plant from closing would be part of a comprehensive energy plan.

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