Happy Tuesday, Illinois. While former Gov. Rod Blagojevich holds a presser about getting his reputation back, former Gov. Jim Edgar was sharing insight in his executive leadership training program. You can learn a lot from both.
Negotiations around the clean energy bill that stalled in the General Assembly earlier this year have completely broken down, prompting criticism from Gov. J.B. Pritzker and a vow by lawmakers to step in to try to hammer out their own compromise.
“I have negotiated in good faith as pro-coal forces have shifted the goalposts throughout this process,” Pritzker wrote to labor leaders who announced Monday they had hit an impasse in talks with environmentalists. “I stand ready and willing to sign the bill that reflected discussions in legislative working groups and included agreed upon policies that you received on June 10. If you are willing to remove the barriers to moving forward, the impasse you find yourselves at can be resolved.”
State Sen. Bill Cunningham, who’s been working behind the scenes on the legislation, said the stalled talks were “disappointing, but we certainly don’t think this is the end of things.”
In an interview with Playbook, he said: “We’ll work to put together a comprehensive energy bill and are confident that we can have legislation that environmentalists and organized labor will be pleased with. Neither side will be 100 percent pleased but rarely is any party 100 percent pleased with any legislation.”
Labor unions and environmentalists acknowledged the impasse in separate letters that came just days after Exelon said it would make good on its threat to close two nuclear power plants if it didn’t get state funding that was supposed to be written into the legislation.
The energy company says that funding will help keep the units running while the state ramps up its clean-energy efforts.
The two sides have been huddling since June to come up with a compromise after they failed to reach a deal during the spring legislative session.
At the crux of the issue is the state’s timeline for decarbonization. Pritzker has proposed — and environmentalists have embraced — a schedule that would have coal and natural gas power plants wind down at the rate of about 20 percent of their carbon emissions every five years.
Labor is concerned at how fast utilities must move on hitting the caps in carbon emissions and that gas plants could close earlier than desired.
Unions say two municipally owned coal-fired power plants — one in Springfield and the and another in Metro East — could be in danger of closing as a result of the accelerated schedule. And construction on Three Rivers Energy Center in Grundy County, a natural gas plant, could be stopped. “The parent company has threatened to pull the plug on the project based on Pritzker and the environmental groups’ proposal,” reports NPR Illinois’ Hannah Meisel.
Behind their carefully worded statements about an impasse, labor claims it has delivered on its end while environmentalists, like Pritzker, say the unions keep changing their minds on what they’ll agree to.
“There will be a decarbonization goal one way or another,” Cunningham said. “The question is how aggressive will that goal be.”
Another wrinkle: The federal bipartisan infrastructure bill has a provision that will bail out unprofitable nuclear plants — promising! — “but it won’t save two nukes Exelon has said it plans to close this fall,” reports Crain’s Steve Daniels.
Protect Our Parks initially challenged the Obama Foundation’s selection of Jackson Park in a 2018 lawsuit. In 2019, supporters of the group tied ribbons around trees in the park to protest the construction of the Obama Presidential Center.
Protect Our Parks initially challenged the Obama Foundation’s selection of Jackson Park in a 2018 lawsuit. In 2019, supporters of the group tied ribbons around trees in the park to protest the construction of the Obama Presidential Center. | Marc Monaghan
LETTER FROM CHICAGO: ’It’s been hard opposing Barack Obama’: His presidential center still faces resistance, your host wrote for POLITICO magazine: Much of the Jackson Park community has embraced the plans for the Obama Presidential Center after some initial skepticism, and construction crews are prepared to start preliminary work as soon as August 15, when the foundation takes possession of a portion of the park from the city. But it’s not clear that the timeline will unfold as planned. Last week, local activists took another step forward in their years-long fight against the project, hoping to stop construction and force a change in location.
Activists say they have broader support but residents are fearful of speaking out against the Obamas. “Many environmental organizations having to do with open lands and friends of the park and so forth — they are studiously quiet. They will not take a position on litigation. They won’t write an amicus brief. They won’t publish any letters,” says Richard Epstein, the lead attorney for Protect Our Parks.
Obama Foundation President Valerie Jarrett says it’s not a matter of residents fearing the Obamas — it’s that support for the lawsuit just isn’t there. “People aren’t afraid… Early in the process we held constructive sessions with residents. We listened and made improvements. That is why there is overwhelming support for the project now.”