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Question of the day

Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

* Tribune

Illinois on Wednesday became the second state to prohibit landlords from evicting tenants solely because they’re living in the U.S. illegally.

The measure Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law also prohibits landlords from reporting or threatening to report tenants’ immigration status to authorities in order to intimidate them, or as retaliation for exercising their rights as tenants, or to force them to move out. The legislation was modeled after a similar law in California. […]

Supporters said the new Illinois law was necessary because some landlords use the threat of notifying immigration authorities to keep tenants from reporting unsafe living conditions or other problems. State Sen. Cristina Castro, an Elgin Democrat and chief sponsor of the legislation, said this type of behavior was previously legal under state law. […]

Previous Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed an earlier version of the legislation last August, citing concerns that it conflicted with federal law. The new version was approved this spring with a smattering of GOP support and without formal opposition from real estate groups, which opposed the earlier attempt.

* The Question: Your thoughts on this new law?

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      

Chicago casino roundup

Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

* The Reader’s Deanna Isaacs looks at the state of a Chicago casino

To be successful, the consultants concluded, a Chicago casino would have to be located downtown, where tourists would be likely to visit it. And even then, they said, given the “onerous” tax burden the legislature had stipulated, it was unlikely to be profitable enough to get financed.

But they had a suggestion: drop the city’s one-third revenue share, and a downtown casino could be in the hefty 20-plus percent range of annual profit that’s typical of the industry.

So here’s where we stand now: locked into private ownership, but without a feasible neighborhood location and minus the city’s one-third slice of the anticipated revenue pie. In other words, suckered into giving up the exact selling points that made the deal seem worth doing. And what are the long-term effects? Bigger profits and a prime location for the private casino owner, while the city gets some low-paying jobs likely to be offset by the social costs of a hugely expanded predatory industry.

Lightfoot, who has personal and former business connections to people in the gambling industry, says the city will go back to the legislature this fall to “fine-tune” the law (even though the expansion has already cost her all her Springfield leverage). The Illinois Gaming Board has 90 days from the time it received the study to come up with recommendations for those changes, and Union Gaming Analytics has suggested one: If the law were changed, the city could, in fact, be the casino owner, trading its one-third tax on adjusted gross revenue for any possible profits; financing the casino development with municipal bonds (thereby transferring all the risk to the public); and hiring a professional gaming company to run the operation.

* Greg Hinz also takes a look

For instance, the chief Senate sponsor of the casino bill, Lake County Democrat Terry Link, argues that if Chicago thinks the taxes are too high to finance a casino it can take less or offer its own inducements, maybe free land or a big tax increment financing grant.

“There’s ways they have to help developers without going to the General Assembly,” Link told me. And there’s good reason to think that the consultant’s report overstated the risk that high taxes could kill any Chicago casino, Link added. “I don’t think there’s a shortage of developers willing to go in there.”

One idea I’ve heard discussed is to cut that special [33 percent] Chicago tax. Slashing it by, say, half could increase that 3 percent operating margin to around 20 percent, making the casino financially viable, one government insider told me. […]

Revenues from the Chicago casino now are targeted to pay debt service on the governor’s vaunted new $45 billion capital program. With other revenues sources from legal sports gaming and cannabis a little shaky and possibly running short of what was projected, Pritzker will have reason to compromise, says one insider. “He’s already spent the money” on the capital program, says that source. And even if the state has to cut its taxes a bit on the Chicago casino, “He’ll still be able to tell people that the state is getting more money overall than it would have otherwise.” […]

Another wrinkle: The deadline in the law for new casinos authorized in other portions of the state to apply for state licenses is Oct. 15. But it’s possible not all of the locations will be ready by then. Which means that the legislature may have to reopen the gambling bill in its November veto session.

* Tribune

After settling for a deal she said she knew was bad in the first round of casino negotiations, Lightfoot will be under a brighter spotlight and be working with less leverage as she tries to revamp the agreement to Chicago’s advantage during the the legislature’s two-week veto session this fall. […]

Aside from lowering the city’s 33.3% share of the revenue, any changes to make a Chicago casino more financially feasible likely could mean creating a unique set of rules. Other casino towns get only 5% and in some cases have to split that with nearby localities.

In addition to city’s share, the Chicago casino operator also would have to pay a $250,000 application fee upfront, a $15 million “reconciliation” fee when the license is issued and up to $120 million in gambling position fees — which cost $30,000 each. The casino is authorized to have up to 4,000 gambling positions — such as slot machines and blackjack tables — with some slot machines possibly going to O’Hare International and Midway airports.

After three years, the casino would have to pay a fee equal to 75% of its post-payout revenue from its most lucrative 12-month period, minus the fees paid upfront per gaming position.

* Related…

* ‘Not a done deal’: Waukegan residents push back against casino while supporters push for proposal backed by business that fueled local elections: Like several opponents, Verratti raised concerns about the level of spending tied to Bond and Tap Room Gaming in the recent aldermanic elections and pointed to the ongoing campaign promoting a North Point Casino proposal backed by Bond and Warner Gaming. Of the nearly $400,000 donated to aldermanic candidates across Waukegan’s nine wards since December 2018, 85% came from four organizations tied to Bond or the video gambling industry, according to a News-Sun analysis of state-mandated campaign disclosure forms. Of the six candidates that received money from these groups, four won.

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      

New laws

Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

* Press release…

Today, the Midwest Region of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) celebrates Governor Pritzker’s approval of House Bill 252, which closes a loophole in Illinois law that left tens of thousands of workers unprotected against employment discrimination.

Previously, the provisions of the Illinois Human Rights Act addressing discrimination in employment only applied to employers with 15 or more workers, with limited exceptions. The new law brings the State of Illinois in line with 17 other states and territories that prohibit discrimination at all workplaces, including fellow Midwestern states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Similar legislation was passed by the General Assembly in 2018, but was vetoed by former Gov. Bruce Rauner.

“The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on a number of factors, such as gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and more, but that protection was limited. It is an embarrassment that, until now, countless Illinoisans who have been discriminated against at work had no way to seek justice, simply because of how many coworkers they have,” said Anna Koeppel, LiUNA Midwest Region Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs. “We thank the Governor and the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Will Guzzardi and Sen. Cristina Castro, for once again standing with working people and righting this wrong. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and appropriately at work.”


A new law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker legalizes syringe exchange programs in Illinois, opening the door to an increase in operations aiming to serve a community at risk of overdoses and infection from unsafe supplies.

Currently, there are six syringe exchange programs in the state, with half located in Chicago, according to the North American Syringe Exchange Network.

“We need to be providing ways to reduce harm and making sure we’re supporting people who are dealing with substance use issues,” said Illinois Sen. Melinda Bush, who sponsored the legislation. “These syringe exchange programs continue to address the (opioid crisis) and help provide reductions in overdose deaths.”

Syringe exchange programs typically provide free needles to people who use injectable drugs, but also offer disposal services for used syringes, overdose prevention training, kits with opioid-reversing medication and referrals for additional services.

* Press release…

Making critical reforms to improve the lives of justice-involved Illinoisans, Governor JB Pritzker signed a package of legislation today expanding voting rights, civic engagement and educational and rehabilitation programming in Illinois’ criminal justice system.

“It’s a new day in Illinois – one where we not only recognize the sanctity of the vote but commit to doing everything we can to invite everyone who is eligible to fully participate. In Illinois, we understand that every vote matters and every vote counts,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Illinois will continue to stand strong, even as our country takes a dangerous turn toward deeper disenfranchisement of minority communities. Especially as the Voting Rights Act remains gutted, especially as jurisdictions across the nation purge voter rolls and restrict registrations in college towns and communities of color, here in Illinois, we’ll do our best to live up to the ideals of our democracy.”

“These policies are an example of what’s possible when we come together in the name of restorative and transformative justice,” said Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton. “I thank Governor Pritzker for signing these bills into law and working alongside the JEO to create a justice system that better reflects our values.”

Senate Bill 2090

Senate Bill 2090 expands voter access and education efforts in jails across the state. The new law takes the following steps to allow individuals to exercise their right to vote:

    Directs county jails and local election officials to establish a process that allows detainees awaiting trial to cast their ballots during elections
    Establishes a temporary polling place at the Cook County Department of Corrections
    Directs the Illinois Department of Corrections and county jails to provide a voter registration application and detailed information about their voting rights, including notification that their voting rights have been restored, to any person in custody eligible to vote for those being released
    Clarifies that for in-person voting, non-partisan poll watchers are limited to one per division within the jail, instead of one per precinct and requires in-person voting to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act

SB 2090 takes effect immediately.

“Every citizen who is eligible to vote must be provided with the opportunity to cast their ballot,” said Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Chicago). “Thousands of eligible voters who are detained before trial are systematically denied that right. Coupled with a justice system that disproportionately jails people of color, there is a clear effort to suppress the vote in communities of color across the country. This measure addresses that systematic voter suppression and shows that we value civic participation in Illinois.”

“I commend Governor Pritzker and our Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton for fighting for access to the ballot box,” said Rep. Chris Welch (D-Hillside). “Today, we help guarantee the right to vote in Illinois for another underrepresented group. Through Senate Bill 2090, we help ensure that those being held in county jails – those not yet convicted of a crime – are given the opportunity to cast a ballot.”

I’ll post the full release on the live coverage post.

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      

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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

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Today’s number: 108 percent

Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

* Ralph Martire on the governor’s proposed graduated income tax

Under this proposed income tax structure, marginal rates will vary from a low of 4.75 percent to a high of 7.99 percent. It is designed to raise around $3.6 billion in new revenue to address some of Illinois’ significant fiscal shortcomings — all while reducing the income tax burden for an estimated 97 percent of Illinois taxpayers. Increasing taxes on just the wealthiest 3 percent while cutting taxes for everyone else would in fact better align state income tax burden with ability to pay. That’s because since 1979, 108 percent of all inflation-adjusted growth in income in our state — or more than all of it — has gone to the wealthiest 10 percent of earners. Which means the bottom 90 percent of Illinois workers are taking home less today than they did four decades ago.

Martire told me his group “ran an inflation adjusted analysis of the data published by the Economic Policy Institute in its Unequal States of America report for 2018” to arrive at that number.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

Today’s quotable

Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

* ProPublica Illinois has published a follow-up report to its story about how some upper-income parents have given up guardianship of their children to allow them to qualify for need-based college financial aid programs, including state MAP grants

[A parent from a wealthy community in southwestern Lake County] said she and her husband both work, earning more than $200,000 a year, to support their two teenage sons. The family is among those who have allowed their guardianship petition to lapse following the reports about the tactic.

“Why should the kids of people who work hard and are busy every day and have no time to see their kids, why are their kids being punished?” the Lake County mother asked. “They will have to take huge loans and not be able to pay.”

Both of her sons want to become doctors. The guardianship strategy may have helped them avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, she said. That now seems inevitable.

“I don’t want to be discouraging them, but I’m looking at this and thinking, ‘I have to support them all of their life?’” she said.

She worries her sons will get “stuck doing something they don’t like,” perhaps attending community college and working in fast food if they can’t afford to become doctors.

Um, wow.

- Posted by Rich Miller   83 Comments      

Appellate Court again rules against Mautino’s campaign committee

Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

* Derek Barichello at Shaw Media

Two years after an initial elections complaint, an Appellate Court ruled Monday former state Rep. Frank Mautino’s campaign committee further violated election codes.

The ruling stated the committee’s expenses at a bank and at a Spring Valley gas station for gas and repairs of personal vehicles were violations.

Election code states gas and repairs of personal vehicles should be reimbursed through mileage reporting, and should not exceed fair market value. Between 1999 and 2015, the campaign committee reported $225,109.19 in expenditures to a Spring Valley gas station for gas and vehicle repairs.

“Now it’s clear to any candidate in Illinois the way to handle vehicle expenses is through mileage, you can’t just fill up people’s gas tanks,” said Jeffrey Schwab, an attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, representing Streator resident David Cooke, who brought forward the appeal.

The appellate court said the Board of Elections must now consider further fines. The now-defunct committee was fined $5,000 in May 2017 by the Illinois Board of Elections for failing to produce records. The fine has not been paid, as the committee has disbanded.

* Madison-St. Clair Record

Justice James Knecht wrote that evidence clearly established the committee made expenditures to a third party for gas and repairs in violation of the code.

“The board’s decision to the contrary is clearly erroneous,” Knecht wrote. “The record is not clear as to the reasoning of the four members who voted against finding a violation.” […]

Last year, Fourth District judges remanded the complaint for the board to issue rulings on Cooke’s claims.

They directed the board to amend its reconsideration order to show Mautino’s committee violated code on accounting and reporting. […]

Four Republicans [on the State Board of Elections] voted to find violations and four Democrats voted against it.

[David Cooke of Streator, who filed the complaint against Mautino] appealed again and prevailed again.

* From the opinion

As a final matter, we recognize some members of the Board who voted against finding violations of section 9-8.10(a)(9) suggested they did so because they concluded any violation was not “knowingly” committed. On appeal, Cooke contends the evidence established the Committee committed knowing violations and the Board’s decision to the contrary is clearly erroneous. Neither the Committee nor the Board addresses Cooke’s argument. We need not address Cooke’s argument. Section 9-8.10(b) provides: “The Board may levy a fine on any person who knowingly makes expenditures in violation of [section 9-8.10] ***.” 10 ILCS 5/9- 8.10(b) (West 2014). The Board, quoting section 9-8.10(b), asserts, “If a section 9-8.10 violation is found, section 9-8.10(b) states that the Board ‘may levy a fine on any person who knowingly’ made improper expenditures.” The Board’s assertion supposes the determination of whether a person knowingly made expenditures in violation of section 9-8.10 is a determination concerning the imposition of fines that is made only after a determination of whether a violation occurred. The Committee does not address the Board’s interpretation of section 9-8.10(b). Absent any argument to the contrary, we agree with the Board’s interpretation. Having now concluded the evidence established violations of section 9-8.10(a)(2) and (a)(9), the Board on remand can address whether the violations were knowingly committed in considering the matter of fines under section 9-8.10(b).

That could be Mautino’s out.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

“Chicago has more lead on average than Flint, Mich., during its 2015 water crisis”

Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

* WBEZ has a story about a tap water study done on the city’s South Side by Virginia Tech researchers

But the tests also showed another disturbing trend: Lead levels in many homes got higher as the water ran for up to three minutes.

In fact, the study found that after three minutes of running water, Chicago has more lead on average than Flint, Mich., during its 2015 water crisis. […]

“(T)the Chicago Department of Water Management continues to advise residents with lead service lines or fixtures to flush their water for five minutes every time their water has been stagnant for six hours or more,” Water Department spokeswoman Megan Vidis wrote in an email to WBEZ.

About 80% of Chicago homes — mostly those built before 1987— have lead service lines connected to their homes. Researchers suspect the reason lead levels rise after running the water for around three minutes is because that is when the water that has been sitting in lead service lines reaches the tap.

Who flushes their water lines for five minutes?

* More

In response to the findings, Vidis noted the city of Chicago consistently meets “U.S. EPA standards for drinking water of 15 parts per billion.” […]

[Marc Edwards, who led the U.S. Water Study Research Team doing the tests for the study] said this low bar is unacceptable, in part because his study and others indicate that the first liter out of the tap is often much lower in lead than the water that follows.

“Everyone knows the Lead and Copper rule is not sufficiently protective and this is just a loophole — some even call it the Chicago loophole,” Edwards said. “The first [liter] draw seems low whereas the normal water people drink tends to be higher. Maybe this loophole will be closed when the new Lead and Copper rules are announced.”

Aside from causing brain damage, lead exposure has been connected to increased violent behavior.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      

Where are the other probes?

Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

* It’s not that I totally disagree with everything in this Tribune editorial

The eruption of the #MeToo movement and companion allegations of sexual harassment in the Illinois Capitol provoked a novel idea: Maybe official Springfield should think about policing legislative misconduct.

In subsequent fits and starts, House Speaker Michael Madigan has acknowledged misbehavior in his statehouse and political realms, and has vowed to fix a sorry culture of harassment and bullying. Essentially: You can trust me. […]

Madigan responded to Hickey’s report with more platitudes: He takes responsibility for not doing enough, he’s already taken steps to improve the culture, he’s “ready to work with the other legislative caucuses to ensure that everyone has a safe workplace.”

Who knows, maybe more attempts at damage control will placate members of Madigan’s caucus, who’ll have to own Hickey’s findings throughout the 2020 campaign cycle.

Madigan’s a big boy. He should take his medicine.

But I wonder why no other legislative leader has publicly launched his own probe into any potential problems in their respective shops. Same goes for the Illinois Republican Party. Where are their admissions of shortcomings? Where are their promises to do better?

These were hardly isolated incidents.

* Related…

* March, 2018: Legislative Leaders Say They Won’t Join Madigan in Releasing List of Misconduct Allegations

…Adding… From Leader Durkin’s spokesperson Eleni Demertzis…

Hi Rich,

When the #MeToo movement unraveled under the dome, Leader Jim Durkin proactively brought in an outside firm to review, assess and evaluate our office procedures, protocols and work environment. Several employees were randomly selected to be interviewed from offices in Springfield and Chicago, and the entirety of the review lasted approximately two months.

The firm, Alvarez and Marsal, ultimately expanded the harassment section of the House Republican Staff Personnel Rules and Regulations Handbook to include a more comprehensive document for employees to turn to if they are subject to harassment. We have a zero tolerance policy of harassment of any kind.

Leader Durkin also introduced a bill to create the Illinois Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Helpline to give people across Illinois more resources to get help. The helpline went live in June 2018 and the number is 877-236-7703.


…Adding… Rep. McSweeney begs to differ…

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      

*** UPDATED x2 *** Pritzker vetoes bill that would expel students who bring B-B guns, paint ball guns, etc. to school

Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

* SB2124

Provides that a student must be expelled for a period of not less than one year if he or she brings to school, a school-sponsored activity or event, or an activity or event that bears a reasonable relationship to school a pneumatic gun, spring gun, paint ball gun, or B-B gun, irrespective of the type or size of projectile that can be fired or the gun’s muzzle velocity

The bill was sponsored by Republicans Chapin Rose in the Senate and Dan Caulkins in the House. We discussed it back in March. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and only one person voted “No” in the House (Democrat Delia Ramirez).

* The governor vetoed the bill yesterday

Today I veto Senate Bill 2124 from the 101st General Assembly, which would have amended the Illinois School Code. My administration appreciates the hard work of the sponsors of the legislation in the Senate and the House. While this legislation was well intended, the School Code already equips school boards, superintendents, and administrators with the tools necessary to discipline students who bring inappropriate, potentially harmful objects to school.

The School Code authorizes school boards to expel students who bring weapons to school. It also authorizes school boards to establish policies to discipline students who engage in gross disobedience and misconduct. These policies provide authority for school districts to discipline a student who brings a pneumatic gun, spring gun, paint ball gun, or B-B gun to a school or school activity, and to tailor the punishment to the circumstances of the incident. My office is prepared to work with the bill sponsors in order to address any ongoing concerns surrounding student safety.

Our state must do everything possible to prepare students for academic success, career advancement, and civic life. Too many students are derailed during their academic careers and entangled in the school-to-prison pipeline. State law should be crafted to ensure that students are not disproportionately disciplined in a manner that affects the long-term trajectory of their success in school and life. The School Code reflects this philosophy by recommending that school officials consider forms of non-exclusionary discipline prior to using out-of-school suspensions or expulsions.

*** UPDATE *** Sen. Chapin Rose…

The governor’s office called me Friday regarding their anticipated veto of this school safety legislation. We subsequently had a good conversation with them and the Mt. Zion school district about the very real problem that exists and has occurred in their district that the current law does not adequately address. The most important thing is that school boards need flexibility to address school safety issues in these circumstances, flexibility they do not have under current law. This point was reinforced in our conversation with the governor’s staff by the Mt. Zion superintendent. This is not a hypothetical issue, this was based on a real incident. During my conversation with the governor’s office, they agreed to work with me and with the Mt. Zion School District, between now and the upcoming fall veto session, to address the very real concerns and needs that inspired this bill. I appreciate this willingness and look forward to continuing to develop this idea.

I can’t see how mandated expulsion is about “flexibility,” but whatevs.

*** UPDATE 2 *** From the actual bill

The expulsion requirement under this subdivision may be modified by the superintendent, and the superintendent’s determination may be modified by the board on a case-by-case basis.

So, it does indeed give them some flexibility.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

As long expected, Vistra to close some Illinois coal-fired power plants

Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

* April 13, 2018

Three days after completing the roughly $2 billion purchase of rival Dynegy Inc., power producer Vistra Energy Corp. got another reminder of the struggles facing the Illinois coal plants it added to its fleet.

The region’s grid operator, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), announced clearing prices for its annual capacity auction yesterday afternoon. And the results will only fuel speculation that the company will close one or more of its Illinois plants. […]

Vistra is in the midst of an operational review of power plants to identify potential efficiencies. But, [Vistra’s CEO Curt Morgan] noted, the Illinois fleet is “challenged.”

“We’re likely going to have to retire some facilities there,” he said, adding that such a decision could come as early as this year.

* April 16, 2018

Coal is becoming a less competitive energy source with cheaper options like natural gas and other renewables on the market, Vistra Energy CEO Curtis Morgan told CNBC’s on Monday.

“I don’t believe [coal] is going to have a renaissance,” Morgan said in an exclusive “Mad Money ” interview. “I think it’s on its way out.”

* Today

Vistra Energy announced Wednesday it is closing its coal burning power plants in Canton, Havana, Hennepin and Coffeen.

The company said in a statement it will retire the four power plants in order to meet new revisions to the Multi-Pollutant Standard Rule introduced by the Illinois Pollution Control Board.

About 300 people will lose their jobs in the closures. The company is working to provide services for those workers.

Vistra said it was closing the four power plants to save the other four plants it operates in Illinois. The company’s emissions in Illinois will be driven down 57 to 61 percent by the closures, getting it under the new cap, the company said. […]

State Rep. Mike Unes (R-East Peoria), who represents the area where Canton’s Duck Creek Power Station is based, pinned the blame for the closures on former Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Future Jobs Energy Act he signed into law in 2016.

* But as noted in the first story in this post, it’s not all about the environmental regulations. From a Vistra press release

Vistra Energy (NYSE: VST) and its subsidiaries today announced the four power plants that will retire in order to meet the requirements of the recently approved revisions to the Multi-Pollutant Standard rule imposed by the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB). Without this rule change, the company’s entire downstate fleet was at risk of near imminent retirement. […]

“Even though today’s retirement announcements were inevitable due to the changing regulatory environment and unfavorable economic conditions in the MISO market, they are nonetheless difficult to make,” said Curt Morgan, Vistra’s president and chief executive officer.

Emphasis added.

* Meanwhile

Irving-based Vistra Energy will soon be the electricity provider for an industry-leading percentage of customers in competitive U.S. markets with a $475 million purchase of Dallas-based Ambit Energy.

Vistra announced the cash deal Tuesday and said its share in Texas alone will grow to one of every three residential consumers. Nationally, Vistra will have 26% of customers in competitive markets.

…Adding… From comments…

Let’s not ignore the fact that this is exactly what they asked for.

They worked hand in hand with Rauner’s EPA to rewrite pollution rules that allow them to shut down their cleaner-burning plants and use their dirtier plants more.

JB’s EPA made some slight changes to the rule, but in effect, Vistra got EXACTLY what they wanted.

Now they are blaming the Governor for shutting down the plants?

That’s fresh.

…Adding… Sen. Andy Manar…

Closing down the cleanest coal-fired power plant in the world makes zero sense. Today, Vistra, the Illinois EPA and Pollution Control Board together failed the environment.

Shame on the Pollution Control Board for not doing its homework and allowing this to happen. If power plants are to be closed, the worst polluters should close first.

In addition, the economic loss related to this closure cannot be fully realized today. Hard-working, middle-class families have had their lives turned completely upside down. Our singular goal in the coming days and weeks should be to help these families through the economic crisis that Vistra set into motion today.

I remain puzzled as to why an out-of-state power company would purchase power plants solely for the purpose of shutting them down. From all outward appearances, Vistra is using Illinois’ Multi-Pollutant Standard Rule (MPS) as an excuse to set into motion something they always intended to do.

If that rule was truly intended to reduce emissions, this move stands in stark contrast to that goal.

…Adding… Sen. Dave Koehler…

I am incredibly saddened by the announcement that Duck Creek will close. The hardships that the workers at this plant will endure cannot be understated. They are not statistics or lines on a balance sheet. They are human beings, and I stand committed to working with the governor’s administration in Springfield to bring much needed economic support to both their families and the rest of the Fulton County community.

The fact is the current business market for coal-based energy is simply no longer sustainable. As we transition to an energy economy that focuses on limiting emissions, we must be proactive in helping those communities that this will adversely effect.

…Adding… Sierra Club Illinois Director Jack Darin…

“Vistra’s announcement today is exactly what the company and Dynegy have stated it has wanted to do over the last couple years in pursuing revisions to Illinois’ Multi-Pollutant Standard: secure greater ‘flexibility’ in meeting less stringent, state pollution limits, so that the company can retire less polluting plants and continue running dirty plants.

“This aging fleet has changed corporate hands three times in the last several years and instead of responsibly investing in modern pollution controls and long-term plans for our Illinois’ workforce, Texas energy corporations have routinely sought delays from state regulators in reducing pollution and have chosen to abruptly shutter units it knew were risky investments upon purchase. While these companies repeatedly claimed financial hardship it has simultaneously brokered expensive deals and lucrative mergers for Houston shareholders.

“We are concerned about the workers and communities impacted by these announcements. It is increasingly urgent that the State of Illinois put plans and programs in place that provide job opportunities and new economic development for those impacted, and that they are prioritized for all the benefits the clean energy economy can deliver. The Clean Energy Jobs Act (SB2132/B3624) will provide a framework for that transition, and we urge the General Assembly to consider and approve it in their fall veto session.”

…Adding… IL Clean Jobs Coalition…

Long before JB Pritzker was elected governor, Vistra CEO Curtis Morgan went on CNBC on April 16, 2018 and promised higher stock dividends and said coal ‘is on its way out.’ The year before, in 2017, the company’s Dynegy division asked the Rauner administration for the rule that made it easier and more profitable for the company to close the four plants they announced today. Because Texas-based Vistra puts its shareholders first and intends to cut and run on local Illinois communities, we must act to protect the people who will lose their jobs and communities that will lose the property tax revenues that fund their local schools, police and fire services. The Clean Energy Jobs Act is the only legislation designed to help these struggling communities, not out of state polluting companies, by creating new jobs, replacing tax revenue and supporting workers affected by plant closures.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      

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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

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* Question of the day
* Chicago casino roundup
* New laws
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Campaign updates
* Today's number: 108 percent
* Today's quotable
* Appellate Court again rules against Mautino's campaign committee
* "Chicago has more lead on average than Flint, Mich., during its 2015 water crisis"
* Where are the other probes?
* *** UPDATED x2 *** Pritzker vetoes bill that would expel students who bring B-B guns, paint ball guns, etc. to school
* As long expected, Vistra to close some Illinois coal-fired power plants
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* Yesterday's stories

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