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Bush, local leaders push for fees on Zion nuclear waste dumping (VIDEO)

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ZION — “Cities should have the power to collect an impact fee if a company stores its nuclear waste in their community,” State Senator Bush (D-Grayslake) said. “Zion was a partner in welcoming the nuclear plant. But now that the plant and the jobs are gone, the utility company needs to be a good neighbor and a positive force in the community. I want to give local governments the ability to hold companies accountable for the impact of leaving nuclear waste behind.”

Zion is the site of the decommissioned Zion Nuclear Power Station, owned by Exelon, which closed the facility in 1998. The facility stores spent nuclear fuel from the plant and is currently undergoing a long decommissioning process.

In the wake of the plant’s closure, Zion lost an estimated 55 percent of its property tax revenue. Even with property tax increases, the community has yet to make up the huge hole left in their budget. Due to the land’s use as a waste disposal site, options for redevelopment are extremely limited.

“The dramatic loss of Equalized Assessed Valuation has driven the Zion tax rate significantly higher as more of the tax burden is pushed on to residential properties,” said Chris Clark, Superintendent of the Zion-Benton Township High School District. “Property values have also reached an all-time low. The fact that Zion has become a long-term storage facility for spent fuel, and the inability of Zion to utilize prime lake front real estate for development, have greatly hindered the community’s recovery.”

“Communities are dependent on their ability to create value within their boundaries,” said John Ahlgrim, Superintendent of Zion Elementary School District 6. “That land is in such a critical location for the city.”

David Knabel, Chief Financial Officer for the City of Zion, said the closure of the facility lowered local property tax revenues by nearly $20 million while the city needed to provide the same level of services to the surrounding community.

“[A nuclear disposal impact fee] will help to offset the impact to the residents and businesses and help to repair the damage done to the area,” Knabel said in a statement by the city.

The legislation is Senate Bill 544. It awaits a vote in the Illinois Senate.