SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – Governor J.B. Pritzker rejected a bill Wednesday that would have given Ameren the first say in building new transmission lines in the state.

When it comes to projects aimed at building new transmission lines, utility companies go through a competitive bidding process. Part of an energy omnibus bill would have done away with that for downstate companies like Ameren.

Pritzker vetoed the measure out of concern that the bill would have stifled competition, raising costs for Ameren customers.

“Without competition, Ameren ratepayers will pay for these transmission projects at a much higher cost,” Pritzker said in his veto message to lawmakers. “Competitively bidding transmission construction, instead of giving the utility a monopoly, has been shown to lower costs significantly.”

Under the proposal, utility companies like Ameren that own or operate transmission lines downstate would have had the first say to put in new ones. 

“This would mean that Ameren had a right of first refusal and if they wanted to build it, they could build it at whatever price they wanted to,” Jen Walling, the executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council said.

Walling said this would have driven up clean energy costs.

“We’re really concerned that this is going to make clean energy less affordable and bring less clean energy to the state,” Walling said. “We need transmission. We need a lot of it, but we need it to be done affordably with fair labor.”

Ameren said the governor’s decision would make it harder for the company to do its job.

“The Illinois labor proposal sent to the governor by the General Assembly would enable much-needed electric transmission capacity to be quickly and cost effectively placed into service,” Shawn Schukar, the chairman and president of the Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois, said in a statement to WCIA. “Unfortunately, today’s veto will result in unnecessary delays in construction that increase costs for downstate energy customers and put the benefits of the clean energy transition at risk.”

The provision on transmission line construction is part of a larger energy omnibus bill. Pritzker said if this specific change is made, he’ll approve the bill.