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Exelon's Clinton Power Station. 

CLINTON — Shutting down the Clinton Power Station would have far-reaching effects beyond DeWitt County and Central Illinois, said state lawmakers, local officials and Exelon representatives who met in Clinton on Thursday to discuss efforts to keep the plant open.

“There are nearly 700 jobs at the Clinton Power Station and the median salary is about $90,000, and so those are good jobs and jobs that can’t be replaced,” said state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, at a news conference at the DeWitt County government building in Clinton.

Mitchell said he is sponsoring legislation that would classify nuclear power as a renewable, low-carbon energy source. Illinois electric utilities would be required to purchase a specified percentage of low-carbon energy credits from energy sources that emit little or no carbon dioxide.

Officials with Exelon, the plant's owner, have said the legislation could help the plant, which has posted losses of about $453 million in the past six years, remain competitive and stave off closing before its operating license expires in 2026.

Mitchell said studies have shown about 1,900 jobs directly or indirectly related to the plant could be lost. It also would be a blow to the Illinois power grid, which draws about 50 percent of its power from nuclear plants, he added. 

"We want to keep the jobs and the property tax revenue the plant brings in, but if you take this plant off of the grid, the price of energy for everyone in Illinois will go up,” he said.

Exelon is committed to keeping the plant, which is about six miles east of Clinton, open through May 2017, but officials have said early retirement of the plant is likely if new legislation is not passed.

“The closure of the plant would increase electric rates for every Illinois resident and serve to only hasten Illinois’ job losses elsewhere as businesses lose the one competitive edge that Illinois still has, which is low energy costs,” said state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, who also spoke at the news conference. “With the closure of nuclear plants, you would have unlimited upside to rate increases.”

Before a crowd of about 40 people that included officials from Clinton, DeWitt County and other affected taxing bodies and Exelon employees, Rose and Mitchell asked those in attendance to get the word out about the impact the closure of the plant would have.

“Many in the environmental community are starting to realize that without nuke, carbon emissions actually increase in the market share through natural gas,” Rose said. “We are starting to gain some allies in places we didn’t have allies before. But this closure would affect all residents in Illinois.”

DeWitt County gets about $2 million in property tax revenue each year from the plant, said DeWitt County Board Chairman Dave Newberg. Taxing bodies would have to cut jobs and programs or raise property taxes to make up for the loss, he said.

Also in attendance was Bloomington resident Carolyne Joseph, who is in her ninth year at the plant as an operations manager.

“I have three kids and we uprooted to move here, but it impacts me as an employee and member of the community to have to go through this every year where there are concerns about the plant shutting down,” she said. “We are working and living year to year, which is difficult to make long-term family decisions.

"I’m in the nuclear business, so, if this shuts down, there are no options for me here.”

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​Follow Kevin Barlow on Twitter: @pg_barlow.

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Agriculture Reporter

Agriculture reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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