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Report: ComEd parent says no to Illinois nuke bailout

According to a published report, ComEd-parent Exelon says it will NOT seek a state bailout of its nuclear power plants. (CUB Executive Director David Kolata had earlier described a full-fledged bailout as “radioactive” for consumer pocketbooks.)

But the news is tinged with uncertainty, since consumer advocates wonder if the door is still open to some type of pro-Exelon legislation. We shall see.

A month ago, Crain’s Chicago Business reporter Steve Daniels broke the story of Exelon threatening to close up to three plants in Illinois unless state legislators forced consumers to pay more on their power bills to give the company a profit boost.

Daniels also was the first to report Exelon’s apparent about faceThere should not be a bailout from the state,” Exelon CEO Chris Crane said today.

Up until now, consumer advocates were gearing up for a major Springfield battle, with Exelon lobbying to increase our electric bills through some type of bailout. Critics bashed the company for the hypocrisy of complaining about an electricity market that it had helped to create and seeking the kind of bailout it had opposed for competitors. Exelon had raked in more than $21 billion in profits over the last decade, but times changed when wholesale power prices plunged (because of greater gas supply and energy efficiency).

In a Chicago Tribune column, CUB Executive Director David Kolata wrote: “A bill that would insulate Exelon from the costs of its business decisions, while obligating consumers to pay the consequences, would be the financial equivalent of nuclear waste. Lawmakers should reject any one-sided proposal that causes this kind of fallout for consumers….Anything resembling a full-fledged bailout of Exelon’s plants would be radioactive for our pocketbooks.”

But let’s be clear: Exelon did not rule out plant closings. CEO Crane reportedly said that keeping plants open will depend on better market structures at PJM. (That’s a kind of air traffic controller for electricity that oversees power market rules in northern Illinois and 12 other states.) And there’s always a chance for an Exelon legislative push with a new angle.

This battle may not be over. We’ll keep an eye out for more developments, in Springfield and at PJM.