Thursday, January 13, 2011

Another Blow To Illinois Clean Energy

The waning hours of the lame duck Illinois Senate session struck another blow against clean power generation in Illinois as the Illinois Senate defeated by a vote of 33-18 a bill authorizing Tenaska, Inc. to proceed with construction of the proposed $3.5 billion coal gasification/carbon capture and sequestration power plant near Taylorville. Over the last five years the State of Illinois has invested $23 million of the $40 million spent by Tenaska in planning and development expenditures for the proposed project.

Taylorville Mayor Greg Brotherton, who hung around the statehouse during the final vote in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, remains optimistic Tenaska may find other sources of funding to complete construction of the facility, though he expressed exasperation at the workings of the Illinois legislature. “It was a learning experience for me the past five or six weeks, and seeing how the legislature works, it’s just unreal,” Brotherton exclaimed.

Mary L. Renner, Director of the Taylorville/Christian County Economic Development Corporation, said the Energy Center site remains viable for other energy related development even if Tenaska pulls out of the carbon capture/coal gasification project. “To be able to draw this kind of attention says a great deal for the natural resources there,” said Renner.

Opponents of the bill asserted that the legislation would have required Illinois electric utilities to purchase power from the newly built facility at above market prices for the next 30 years in order to recover the state subsidized cost of building and operating the environmentally conscious, greenhouse gas limiting facility. “It would have been damaging to the state’s job-creation climate,” said Philip O’Connor, chairman of the Coalition to Stop Tenaska’s Overpriced Power.

Tenaska vice president Bart Ford said his company is not yet prepared to say it will walk away from its own $40 million dollar investment in the project, despite the Illinois Senate’s resounding defeat of the authorizing legislation. “We are currently evaluating our next course of action,” said Ford. “We believe there is a great deal of support in Illinois for the idea of clean coal power.”

The apparent collapse of this local effort at greenhouse gas control puts Illinois in the company of several European carbon capture and sequestration projects which have faltered due to the unfavorable economic factors involved in bringing carbon capture technology up to commercial scale.
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