- Associated Press - Friday, May 1, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A coalition of lawmakers from Illinois plans to introduce legislation to spur growth in the state’s coal industry, ahead of an upcoming review of state energy policies.

Their plan is expected to create 8,000 new jobs, save money for electricity rate payers and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the lawmakers said during an announcement Thursday.

“The General Assembly’s consideration of energy legislation this year has been focused on the northern portion of our state, but it’s important to not lose sight of the needs of southern and central Illinois when thinking about a comprehensive energy policy that works for everyone,” said state Rep. John Bradley, a Democrat from Marion.

The move comes as Exelon, parent company to ComEd, seeks changes to state law in an effort to help keep open its nuclear plants in Clinton and Cordova, the company said. A separate plan attempts to expand the use of so-called “clean energy,” such as wind turbines.

The lawmakers’ proposal seeks to remove regulations allowing electric companies to shift the cost of importing Western states’ coal to electric customers, making it cheaper for Illinois power plants to burn coal, the Southern Illinoisan (https://bit.ly/1QTxomw ) reported.

The proposal outlined Thursday also would establish a revenue stream that could be used to reduce environmentally harmful emissions.

“The time has come to take on Western coal,” said state Sen. Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill. “Our plan will increase demand for Illinois coal that is more efficient, cuts emissions and supports thousands of downstate jobs.”

At least 10 Democratic and Republican lawmakers were involved in proposal. They were joined at the Statehouse on Thursday by Roger Dennison, lead lobbyist for St. Louis-based coal mine company Foresight Energy, which already has contributed more than $185,600 to Illinois politicians this year.

State Rep. Brandon Phelps received $2,500 in March, and the company contributed more than $3,200 to a fundraiser for Manar the same month, according to campaign records. Both Phelps and Manar are among the Illinois lawmakers involved in the proposal.

Foresight also helped finance Gov. Bruce Rauner’s inaugural celebration.

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Information from: Southern Illinoisan, https://www.southernillinoisan.com

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