Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's Must Explain Her Double Standard on Clean Energy Subsidies

Statement by EP-Illinois Coordinator Alan Medsker and EP President Michael Shellenberger:

Over the last few months we've seen growing recognition by Democratic political leaders that efforts to close nuclear plants prematurely are disastrous for the climate. Hillary Clinton said efforts to prematurely retire nuclear plants "put ideology ahead of science and would make it harder and more costly to build a clean energy future." Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz said, "We're supposed to be adding zero-carbon energy sources not subtracting them." And Senator Cory Booker endorsed extending the nuclear the same subsidy wind energy receives: "I know the challenges global warming [presents]... We've got to support the existing fleet."

But while a growing number of Democrats have come to see the importance of fair and equal treatment of clean energy sources to solve climate change, a handful of elected officials remain ideologically opposed to nuclear power — even as they advocate subsidies for wind and solar. 

Case in point is Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Last month Madigan helped kill efforts in the Illinois legislature to support two nuclear plants that are suffering from being excluded from federal subsidies and the Illinois state Renewable Portfolio Standard — both of which Madigan supports. "This proposal would force consumers to pay more only to boost the companies' profits further," said Madigan.

Democratic legislators in Springfield were spooked by Madigan's comments, and the bill died. Days later, Exelon announced it would close the two plants, which would be replaced by natural gas that would increase carbon emissions the equivalent of adding two million cars to the road.

 Attorney General Madigan campaigning for wind and solar subsidies last August.

Attorney General Madigan campaigning for wind and solar subsidies last August.

And yet, Madigan has long advocated subsidies for wind and solar and has enjoyed a close relationship with wind and solar advocates — some of whom are supported by the very same natural gas, wind and solar corporations that would benefit from the legislation she endorses.

Last August, Madigan advocated for for "clean jobs" legislation that includes large subsidies for wind and and solar — subsidies that would be paid for by higher rates paid by Illinois ratepayers. The so-called "clean jobs" coalition members includes the Environmental Law and Policy Center, which accepts money from the natural gas company Invenergy, as well as solar and wind companies that stand to benefit from the closure of Illinois nuclear plants.

And last February, Madigan joined a conference call on the clean power plan that was arranged by the Sierra Club — an organization working to shut down nuclear plants in Illinois and California and replace them with natural gas and renewables. In 2012, the Sierra Club was forced to admit that it secretly took $26 million from natural gas interests. Recently, the Sierra Club has been urging its members to buy solar panels from Sungevity, which turns around and gives $1,000 per homeowner signed up to the Sierra Club. 

Notably, if Quad and Clinton are closed, the increased emissions will be one-third of total emissions Illinois is supposed to reduce under the Clean Power Plan. 

Madigan needs to address the inconsistency of her position by making a clear statement about why she can justify subsidies for solar and wind but not for nuclear. If she's ideologically anti-nuclear, as she appears to be, then she needs to explain why. If she's not, then she needs to explain her double standard. The 2,000 Clinton and Quad workers at risk of being laid off, and the people of Illinois more broadly, deserve an explanation.