Anti-Nuclear Group ELPC Defies Illinois EPA finding that Illinois Nuclear Would Be Replaced "Mostly by Coal"

Howard Learner, Executive Director of Environmental Law and Policy Center, at his organization's annual dinner on April 29, where ELPC donors including fossil fuel companies received "recognition from the podium."

Howard Learner, Executive Director of Environmental Law and Policy Center, at his organization's annual dinner on April 29, where ELPC donors including fossil fuel companies received "recognition from the podium."

by Alan Medsker and Michael Shellenberger

The head of Illinois anti-nuclear organization Environmental Law and Policy Center — which is funded by fossil fuel interests and other energy companies that would benefit from closing nuclear plants — has doubled down on his efforts to increase carbon emissions by closing nuclear power plants and replacing them with fossil fuels.

In a new article today in Energy and Environment Daily reports that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assumes nuclear plants would be replaced mostly by coal:

E&E Reporter Jeff Tomich says the Illinois EPA has concluded

if Clinton and Quad Cities were retired, all of the 25 million megawatt-hours they produce annually would be replaced by generation from other sources, mostly coal, that would belch millions of tons of CO2.

The report, prepared in response to a resolution passed by the Legislature, suggested that 80 percent of replacement output for Clinton and Quad Cities would come from coal, 12 percent from natural gas and 8 percent from renewables. And that would mean a 21.5-million-metric-ton surge in carbon emissions and complete efforts to meet the EPA rule.

Howard Learner, who has sought to block the construction of and shut down nuclear plants since the mid-1980s, insists Illinois can meet its carbon reduction goals even while burning more fossil fuels:

Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, disagrees. Illinois is well on its way to meeting the 2030 carbon reduction goals even without the two nuclear plants because of a wave of coal plant closures announced since 2012 -- the baseline year for measuring carbon emissions.

The Midwest environmental advocacy group is part of a coalition that's pushing a competing bill to significantly expand the state's renewable energy and efficiency standards (EnergyWire, Feb. 6, 2015).

Learner said ELPC has done the math.

The Clean Power Plan requires Illinois to cut power sector CO2 emissions by almost 30 million short tons if the state chooses a mass-based compliance plan -- the approach advocated for by Exelon and others in Illinois.

If you subtract emissions from two units to be mothballed at Dynegy's coal-fueled Baldwin plant (9.7 million tons) and a unit at the Newton coal plant (2.1 million tons), that represents about 40 percent of the CO2 reductions required. Then subtract emissions from other Dynegy and NRG Energy Inc. coal units that have since 2012 announced plans to shut down in Illinois (Edwards 1, Crawford, Will County, Fisk, Wood River) and the conversion of NRG's Joliet plant to run on natural gas.

Even accounting for increased emissions from the 1,600-MW Prairie State coal-fired power plant in southern Illinois (two units operating at 61 and 75 percent capacity, respectively), the state is well on its way to meeting its Clean Power Plan target, according to ELPC's calculations.

"If you look at today as being a slice in time, we are basically at 81 percent of the way toward the compliance that would be needed by 2030," Leaner said.

This is appalling. Reporters should stop referring to ELPC as an environmental group — it is an anti-environmental organization brazenly seeking to increase carbon emissions, and openly taking money from fossil fuel companies. ELPC's support from fossil fuel interests should have been mentioned in this article, and by all who seek to report objectively on this matter.

We encourage everyone who is negotiating in good faith in Illinois to recognize that Learner and ELPC are committed to destroying Illinois largest source of clean energy, and negotiating in bad faith.