More Blue Collar Blues: Workers and Businesses Caught in Energy Battle

First I would like to thank FDL for all their hard work on issues “working class people” care about. It seems that I find myself with alot of spare time nowadays, so I would like to share a story of what skilled tradesmen are facing in central Illinois.

For the last few years Taylorville, Illinois has tried to bring a $3.5 billion clean-coal power plant project to their area. The federal Department of Energy has granted $1 billion in loan gurantees to Tenaska Power Co. to build this cutting-edge, experimental plant. This project would come as a much-needed economic boost for central Illinois, as well as a model for future clean-coal technologies. This project has overwhelming support from the residents, small businesses, labor groups and politicians from both parties in our area. Sounds like a win-win situation, right? WRONG!

Tenaska has asked the state for a guaranteed contract for the purchase of the power to be produced. Tenaska did not ask for any funding from the taxpayer for construction, cost over-runs or anything associated with building the plant. They did, however, ask for a guarantee that Illinois would buy the power produced at a certain rate, with gaurateed maximum rate increase of 2 percent over the life of the contract for residential rates. Commercial rate increases would not be capped, although any rate increases would have to be approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission. The whole project now has to be approved by the Illinois state house and senate.

Now the opposition steps in. Exelon Corp. is the largest supplier of nuclear power in the Midwest, as well as a major political benefactor of both political parties. Exelon does not want any competition in our electical market, especially from coal. In December 2010, the Illinois state house voted in favor of the project, sendingĀ  it to the state senate for final approval. Exelon then did what corporate America does best. It unleashes a massive, multi-million dollar disinformation campaign. They hire lobbyists to swarm the capitol, get groups like the Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, and the Sierra Club to flood the media with falsehoods and sometimes just outright lies.

On January 13, the Illinois state senate voted down the Taylorville (Tenaska) Energy Center. After seeing the vote count, the deciding “no” votes from Dems (who we counted on) were all from the Chicago area districts, and all have received campaign contributions from Exelon power and the Chamber of Commerce. Funny how that works out.

In conclusion, the blue collar working men and women, small mom and pop businesses, and communities in Illinois fell to political corruption and corporate power and greed.

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