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Exelon threatens to close four nuclear plants in Illinois if Springfield doesn’t act

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Exelon’s CEO said Thursday that four of the company’s nuclear facilities in Illinois could be shuttered if state lawmakers don’t take action to make them more profitable.

Exelon President and CEO Christopher Crane said in an earnings call Thursday that the company “can’t sit here for years and bleed cash and build up debt” by keeping four of nuclear plants operating in the absence of legislation from Springfield that would make those plants more profitable. 

The company had previously said Byron, Braidwood and Dresden plants were in danger of being shuttered. On Thursday, the company said the LaSalle plant also was at risk of closure. 

“Some are more dire than others at this point and we need to move forward with the legislation to prevent the loss for the state from an environmental perspective and an economic perspective,” Crane said. 

The four Illinois plants represent a significant portion of Exelon’s nuclear fleet. 

At issue is the interaction between federal regulators and Exelon’s Illinois-based facilities that get green-energy credits, allowing those facilities to sell energy on the wholesale market at more competitive rates than other energy providers, such as coal plants.

Crane’s comments came two weeks after one of the company’s former executives, Exelon Utilities CEO Anne Prammagiore, abruptly retired and the corporation disclosed that it had been served with multiple subpoenas in connection to a federal probe involving state Sen. Martin Sandoval and the company’s lobbying practices. This week, Prammagiore also resigned as chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, according to media reports.

A veteran legislator told Crain’s Chicago Business last week that it would be difficult for Exelon to get much done in Springfield until lawmakers know more about the federal investigations.

Two of Exelon’s nuclear facilities benefit from legislation that Crane said kept them open.