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Byron station response committee established

A group of Ogle County organization representatives won’t be taking the Byron nuclear plant’s planned closure lying down. 

An announcement was made last Friday about the formation of the Byron Station Response Committee, which plans to develop a “collaborative, broad-based response” to Exelon’s announcement of its intent to close Byron Station in September 2021. 

Byron School District Superintendent Buster Barton, who seems to be in a leadership position with the committee, said the idea to form it came from the community after a number of people reached out following the closure announcement. Barton’s district received just over $19.1 million taxes from the plant last year.

“It just goes to show you how much our community cares about our school district and how important the power plant is to our funding,” Barton said in a press release. “We think this committee will help identify and mobilize groups that can spread our message that the power plant should be kept open.”

The committee’s first meeting was convened Sept. 10 by the Byron School Board. Christine Lynde, president of that board, touted the importance of the plant to the region as a whole and said the impact of it closing is a lot larger than “one would initially think.”

The group said it is aware that the solution will involve legislative action and will require broad-based support and far-reaching plans until the end of the legislative session in May 2021.

“We need to start small in our own local communities to share information, and build an understanding to extend our network and message to the surrounding communities, and indeed all of Illinois,” Byron Mayor John Rickard said. 

Barton said the committee is composed of local leaders, citizens, taxing bodies, elected officials, administrators, representatives of a local bank, representatives of the chamber of commerce, representatives of the Byron School District unions and employees at the nuclear plant. .

The group has identified key stakeholders, worked to craft messages and developed a rough timeline for people to engage with the cause.

Barton said he hopes to get out a “consistent, accurate” message to educate supporters until the veto session in November so supporters will know how to contact their legislators when the time comes.

It is the group’s hope that when the spring legislative session begins, there will be a bill prepared to save Illinois nuclear power that can prevent Byron Station from closing.

“This is a large undertaking, but we have to engage the cause to save Byron Station, our school district, other taxing bodies, and our entire community as we know it today,” Barton said in an email. “There are no guarantees of success, but we must advocate our needs and make our position known to the elected state officials.”

The group plans to have a Facebook page for future announcements. Anyone interested in supporting the cause should contact Barton.

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