The National Mining Association (NMA) said Feb. 4 that $1bn in funding for the long-running FutureGen 2.0 coal repowering project in Illinois has been terminated by the U.S. Department of Energy.
NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn said: "The Department of Energy's decision to back out of its commitment to its U.S. industry partners to build the world's first near zero-emissions, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) coal-fueled power plant calls into question the commitment of the Administration to the development of clean coal technologies. This decision cannot be reconciled with the Administration's proposal to require [carbon capture and storage] as the only acceptable technology for any new coal-fueled power plant in the U.S.
"Last month in his State of the Union, the president called for American leadership on addressing climate change. DOE's decision signals a retreat from a transformative technology solution," Quinn added. "FutureGen has secured the permits, possesses an investment-grade power purchase agreement and has broken ground. It is poised to demonstrate a first-of-a-kind technology for deploying our nation's vast fossil fuel resources."
The National Mining Association's membership includes more than 325 corporations involved in all aspects of coal and solid minerals production including coal, metal and industrial mineral producers.
FutureGen 2.0 is a near-zero emissions coal-fueled power plant. The FutureGen 2.0 project partners planned to upgrade a shut power plant in Meredosia, Ill. with oxy-combustion technology to capture approximately 1.1 million tons of CO2 each year-more than 90% of the plant's carbon emissions. The Associated Press reported that project backers have said they have no choice but to shut it down without the federal funding.
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity on Feb. 4 also blasted DOE's close-out notice for FutureGen 2.0, which was issued despite the Environmental Protection Agency specifically citing Future Gen 2.0 as an advanced-stage model in the agency's New Source Performance Standards rule. The announcement came just one day after President Obama requested millions of dollars in funding for carbon capture and storage projects in his FY 2016 budget.
“The Obama Administration is engaging in misleading double-talk on clean coal technology. Although the administration leaned heavily on FutureGen technologies to justify its flawed New Source Performance Standards rule, President Obama has now cut the project off altogether-demonstrating his hypocrisy towards the American people and his bias against advanced clean coal technologies,” said Laura Sheehan, senior vice president for communications at ACCCE. “President Obama and his federal agencies are clearly opposed to advancing carbon capture and storage technology, despite repeated assurances. What makes this action even more disgraceful is then-Senator Obama's full-throated support for FutureGen in 2006.”
FutureGen has been discussed for more than a decade
FutureGen has a history of stops and starts, which dates back to the administration of former President George W. Bush. The initial FutureGen, which was to use integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) technology, was announced by Bush in 2003.
Obama represented Illinois, the home of FutureGen 2.0, while he was in the U.S. Senate. In 2006, then-Senator Barack Obama described the FutureGen project as “the future of coal in the United States.”
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on Feb. 3 released a statement that said DOE has been "forced" to cancel federal funding for the FutureGen 2.0 project due to the FutureGen Industrial Alliance's failure to find agreement with the private partners before the expiration of the $1bn in federal funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“The Secretary of Energy informed me that because the FutureGen Alliance was unable to secure the private financing necessary to meet the conditions of the project, the Department of Energy has been forced to end their participation," said Durbin. "This is a huge disappointment for both Central Illinois and supporters of clean coal technology. A decade-long bipartisan effort made certain that federal funding was available for the FutureGen Alliance to engage in a large-scale carbon-capture demonstration project. But, the project has always depended on a private commitment and can't go forward without it. I worked on FutureGen 2.0 believing it would create jobs in Illinois and demonstrate a viable environmentally acceptable use of coal to generate electricity. I am encouraged by the news that the Department of Energy values the injection site in Morgan County as a world class sequestration opportunity. I am hopeful that Illinois will continue to play an integral role in developing this technology.”
Recently, said Durbin, the FutureGen Industrial Alliance ran into financial hurdles that they have not been able to overcome, such as trouble securing a private-sector loan and challenges from the Sierra Club and Illinois utilities.