ORIGINAL REPORTING: Illinois Scandal Could Impede Energy Transition
Investigations of ComEd, Exelon lobbying threaten Illinois energy transition; Lawmakers and clean energy advocates vow to continue fighting for the state's landmark clean energy bill despite a "black cloud of corruption."
Herman K. Trabish, Dec. 17, 2019 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The scandal remains unresolved and the investigations continue.
A Grand Jury investigation, FBI raids on Illinois legislators and utility lobbyists, and sudden resignations by top utility executives could turn the state's emerging energy transition, which Illinois lawmakers, utility leaders and other stakeholders have been working toward, into a missed opportunity. Their proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) offers a more ambitious clean energy mandate, and a smart delivery system., but allegations of misuse of ratepayer money could compromise its passage.
"The U.S. attorney and the FBI tend not to proceed frivolously with search warrants or a grand jury investigation," Executive Director of Illinois advocacy group Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) Howard Learner told Utility Dive. Bills backed by the utilities may be problematic due to the "black cloud of the serious federal investigation" into the misuse of ratepayer monies for improper lobbying practices involving Commonwealth Edison and Exelon executives and prominent Illinois polticians.
But stopping Illinois from moving toward clean energy "is not going to happen," CEJA chief sponsor Rep. Ann Williams, D, told Utility Dive. "Any inappropriate, unethical or even illegal behavior will not impact our efforts. The utilities' role may be less, due to these ongoing headline issues, but the Clean Jobs Coalition and other groups pushing for renewables will drive this."
There are three reasons Williams may be right, stakeholders told Utility Dive. First, clean energy advocates see in the CEJA an important opportunity to grow renewables. Second, utilities see revenue in the Act's broad electrification plan, power market revisions and energy efficiency funding. Third, consumer advocates believe the CEJA can reduce customer bills. None want to see these opportunities missed.
The House version of the CEJA was adopted by Rep. Williams' Energy Committee but stopped in the Rules Committee during the 2019 session. The Senate version remains in its Rules Committee. Sponsors and supporters promise to persist toward 2020 passage, despite the hurdles.
But the unfolding investigations into allegations of possible legal or ethical violations by utility lobbyists and their political associates have multiple tangled strands. The FBI served two subpoenas in a Grand Jury investigation into lobbying practices by Exelon, according to its most recent quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The investigation includes Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), one of Exelon's six investor-owned utility (IOU) subsidiaries and the dominant electricity supplier to Chicago and northern Illinois… click here for more