Op-Ed: Lawmakers Should Say ‘No’ to Subsidies for Exelon Nuclear Power Plants | Illinois


As federal lawmakers deliberate on President Joe Biden’s $ 1,000 billion plan to strengthen America’s infrastructure, few people may have noticed that the current plan also includes a $ 6 billion line of credit for nuclear power plants. While it can wait until another day to debate whether subsidizing certain forms of electricity generation is a responsible use of hard-earned taxpayer dollars, Americans of all stripes should be concerned. that some of these funds from this line of credit could be used to support profitable nuclear power plants that do not appear to need help.

Such a question strikes hard in Illinois, where electricity giant Exelon is in the midst of a desperate push to raise public funds for its nuclear plants in Byron and Dresden. The company even convinced some residents, business owners and school board members to lobby on its behalf to “save” its Byron nuclear power plant. The problem? Not only have independent analyzes shown nuclear power plants to be profitable, but Exelon is also under intense legal scrutiny for corruption. Why would lawmakers at any level even consider rewarding the company with grants?

For starters, the two nuclear plants claimed by Exelon are in trouble – Byron and Dresden – are actually operating at a profit. In fact, the Independent Market Monitor verified the profitability of factories, finding that Byron was operating with a budget surplus of $ 77.5 million without subsidies and Dresden was operating with an annual budget surplus of $ 83.7 million, excluding subsidies. also. The Electric Power Supply Association, in fact, testified the profitability of these plants in June of this year before the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Additionally, the Independent Market Monitor for PJM, the power grid operator for the region including parts of Illinois, said no nuclear power plants in the PJM system are threatened with decommissioning.

That these factories do not need public subsidies is not a matter of opinion, but a fact. This point was made earlier this year by Illinois State Senate Speaker Don Harmon, who pointed to independent economic analysis that has proven beyond doubt that Exelon’s factories are economically viable and no did not need public welfare to survive. “Independent market watchers believe these factories can be profitable,” Harmon said in a statement, directly contradicting the narrative Exelon has repeatedly forced upon lawmakers and the public.

Second, consider Exelon’s recent track record. The company was fine $ 200 million last year on bribery and corruption charges and is currently the subject of a deferred prosecution agreement with the federal government. As if that wasn’t enough to tarnish the character of the company, regulators in Illinois are investigating whether Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) – a subsidiary of Exelon – has billed its customers for the associated costs. to this corruption scandal. The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) voted unanimously to initiate the investigation following a staff report that recommended determining whether ComEd had imposed “not properly recoverable” costs on customers.

These actions reveal at least one case of proven corruption and potentially a ploy to make customers pay for the corruption scandal. Should federal or state officials really hand over more public funds to Exelon?

Exelon thinks so, which is why the company is now seeking an Illinois state-level bailout and is working feverishly to bring together allies at the local level to give its cause a local flavor. They hope lawmakers and the public ignore its recent scandal and the overwhelming evidence that its nuclear plants in Byron and Dresden don’t even need the money they’re asking for. It is a daring strategy to say the least, but one that the sane minds of Illinois could not approve of.

Exelon’s chatter may mislead some, but the company’s story just doesn’t hold up to the truth. Its nuclear power plants are not struggling to stay alive. They are profitable and independent analysis shows it. These factories don’t need $ 6 billion in new federal grants or a state-level bailout funded by working families and businesses in Illinois.

Even if factories needed financial aid, should lawmakers really hand over huge sums of public money to a company that has chronically engaged in crony capitalism and corruption and is now doing subject to a deferred prosecution agreement with the federal government? Of course not.

It’s time to end the game over the nuclear power plants in Byron and Dresden and let the truth prevail. The stakes are too high for the public’s hard-earned money. Let us insist that lawmakers do not subsidize profitable and corrupt public services.

Michael Patrick Flanagan is a former member of the United States Congress who represented the 5th District of Illinois.

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