CLINTON — It wasn't the exact anniversary, but Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner came to Clinton on Tuesday to celebrate one year since he signed what he called “historic legislation” to save two Exelon nuclear plants. 

The Future Energy Jobs Act provided $235 million in ratepayer subsidies annually to Exelon Corp. to keep the power stations near Clinton and the Quad-Cities running for at least another 10 years.

“We are here to celebrate,” he told employees at the plant. “This is one of the great economic engines for the entire state of Illinois. You are the best engineers and the best energy-generating professionals anywhere in the United States of America.”

In June 2016, Exelon announced plans to close the Clinton Power Station in June 2017 and Cordova Power Station in June 2018 because the plants racked up losses of about $800 million in the previous seven years.

Thanks to the legislation Rauner signed Dec. 7, 2016, at Clinton High School, the plants now enjoy energy subsidies previously offered to solar, wind and other carbon-free sources of power.

“We are going to have many more birthdays for the rebirth of this facility,” he said. “This creates economic prosperity for the people of Illinois. This creates great careers for the people of Illinois, a better quality of life and a lower cost of living for the people of this great state.”

The Clinton plant employs about 700 people and generates at $15 million per year in property tax revenue.

They contended that the bill would mean greater uncertainty for electricity customers across the state, from large manufacturers to individual families, who will pay for the $235 million in annual subsidies for unprofitable assets of an otherwise profitable company.

Exelon said the subsidies are warranted because, like subsidized wind and solar power, nuclear generation doesn’t emit climate-damaging carbon pollution.

“It was tough, and it took many, many months to get it passed,” he said. “There were many points to it. It was a rough, rough process.

But this facility and the ability to stay competitive and dynamic in every segment of the energy-generation field is critically important," he said. "Your success is Illinois' success.”

Rauner said about 1,500 jobs were saved at the two plants with the legislation, and another 500 jobs were added as a result of the plants staying open.

“The real power is the thousands of jobs that each of you support in your community here,” he said. “There are three or four jobs for every one of your jobs that are created here because of your success.

"This plant staying opens, and helping keeping our energy costs low and competitive, allows us to bring more jobs to Illinois because our energy costs to industrial customers are 20 percent lower than other states.”

Also joining Rauner, were state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth and state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet.

“We are doing a lot better than we were 13 months ago when we didn't know if this plant was going to stay open or not,” Mitchell said. “I have to give kudos to the workers."

Exelon Chief Operating Officer David Rhoades said Tuesday that plant officials expect to begin soon the process of applying for a renewal of the plant's operating license.

“We are sequencing it behind some other things, but I think in 2019, we plan to actually submit the renewal for Clinton,” he said.

The current license expires on Sept. 29, 2026.

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