Illinois Approves $1 Billion Clean Coal Power Plant

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, April 4, 2003 (ENS) - Illinois will be burning more of its locally mined high sulfur coal, but burning it more cleanly than in the past under a statewide coal revival program that got a billion dollar boost today. Governor Rod Blagojevich announced plans for a $1 billion high tech coal fired power plant to be built in Will County on the grounds of the former Joliet Arsenal.

The state's coal mining industry has suffered in recent decades as stricter federal air standards have forced many power companies to burn coal from western states rather than coal mined in Illinois that has higher sulfur content. Recent advances in clean coal technology allows power companies to burn coal mined in Illinois and meet federal environmental standards.

Blagojevich

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (Photo courtesy EVote)
"This project is part of my initiative to promote the use of the state 's abundant coal reserves," Blagojevich said. "Construction of this power plant will demonstrate we can burn Illinois coal without harming the environment and deliver new jobs for the mining industry in central and southern Illinois."

The new plant will create hundreds of jobs and burn as much as two million tons of Illinois coal per year, the governor said.

Indeck-Elwood LLC will construct the 660 megawatt power plant as part of a more than 2,000 acre industrial development in Elwood and incorporate clean-coal technology to reduce emissions.

"The advanced technology to be used at this facility is a great example of the capabilities available to industry today," said Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director Renee Cipriano. "We are pleased to see utilization of this modern technology to allow Illinois coal resources to be used without compromising our environment."

"Indeck is pleased to be part of the team, which includes the state of Illinois, the BNSF Railroad and Centerpoint Properties, that will build the first clean coal power generating station in Illinois in more than 30 years," said Tom Campone, president and chief operating officer of Indeck-Elwood.

The plant, which is slated to begin operation in 2006, will employ at least 80 workers in high paying technical positions and create about 200 coal mining jobs. During construction, the union labor force is expected to peak at more than 1,200 jobs.

To move the project along, Indeck is eligible for about $50 million in financial incentives from the state, including about $25 million in general obligation bonds that would be retired using sales tax revenue paid for by tax revenue from the purchase of Illinois coal.

In addition, as a "high-impact business" as defined by the state, Indeck-Elwood can receive investment tax credits for machinery equipment and buildings as well as tax exemptions for building materials.

"This project will give a boost to the coal industry and create jobs for Illinois coal miners," said state Representative Dan Reitz, a Democrat from Steeleville.

"Governor Blagojevich is moving ahead on his intent to provide a broader market in the future for Illinois coal," said Taylor Pensoneau, president of the Illinois Coal Association. "We see the Illinois Coal Revival Initiative as our bridge to the future, and the word has certainly gotten out that Illinois is serious about coal," he said.

Of the 24 plants in Illinois that currently burn coal, only three - CILCO's Duck Creek in Canton, Southern Illinois Power Co-op in Marion and City Water, Light & Power Co. in Springfield - burn Illinois coal regularly as a result of clean coal scrubbing technology.

Previous Illinois Governor George Ryan, author of the clean coal program, said last April, "The coal incentive program I signed into law last year sends a clear message to developers that we mean business in Illinois. "We have the tools to compete for a new generation of clean and efficient power plants – facilities that will enhance our state's own energy security and, quite possibly, make us an energy production center for the entire central United States."

Since the Illinois Coal Revival Initiative became law in June 2002, dozens of development prospects have surfaced.

Peabody Energy of St. Louis made the first move announcing that it would build a 1,500 megawatt state of the art coal plant about 50 miles southeast of St. Louis in southwestern Washington County.

Midwest Generation, a division of Mission Energy, followed up in November by filing for an air quality permit to build 1,000 megawatts of new coal fired generating at its Collins Station near Morris in northcentral Illinois.

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Coal mining machine at work in an Illinois mine. (Photo courtesy National Coal Mining Museum)
Forty million tons of Illinois coal are mined annually and produce about $1 billion in gross revenues for Illinois producers. More than half the electricity in Illinois and the United States is generated by burning coal.

The Illinois experience in clean coal technology goes back to pioneering projects of the 1970s, according to John Mead, director of the Coal Research Center at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. Mead told a U.S. House of Representatives energy subcommittee n June 2001 that first generation atmospheric fluidized bed combustion and early gasification for electric power production were constructed or conceptualized for Illinois facilities.

In the 1980s, Mead said, a series of successful circulating fluidized bed combustion projects were supported. Active Illinois partnerships with the U.S. Department of Energy contine with projects such as the Low Emission Boiler System demonstration at Elkhart, Illinois.

Southern Illinois University, in cooperation with the Illinois General Assembly and industry, has initiated a unique program to identify and support the application of clean coal technologies, funded with a $25 million gift from the Commonwealth Edison Company.

Technologies developed or tested in research over the past decade, along with new applications of proven clean coal technologies, are selected by the Clean Coal Review Board - a panel of state government, industry, labor and university leaders. The first program solicitation, held in 2000, generated 16 projects and $417 million in potential projects.

Mead told the lawmakers that ultralow emission technologies that address all emissions, including carbon dioxide, are in the pipeline. "Such low or zero emission systems may be years away from commercialization, but the knowledge gained from such studies will likely have good transfer to improving today’s state of the art systems," Mead said. "The eventual application of ultraclean systems will hold tremendous value to a nation whose greatest fossil energy resource is coal."

The Coal Research Center is online at: http://www.siu.edu/~coalctr/