Chicago governor vetoes plans for coal gasification plants

By Dorothy Davis

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has vetoed legislation that would have permitted the building of two coal gasification plants in Illinois, the New York Times reports.

Bills The bills SB1927 and SB3388 would have approved development of a $3 billion coal gasification plant in Southeast Chicago and a $1 billion plant in Southern Illinois. Utility companies would have been required to buy synthetic natural gas from the Chicago plant for a 30-year period and from the Southern Illinois facility for ten.

Quinn outlined in his veto statement that the environmental and employment goals of the projects were on track, but the potential costs simply put too much burden on ratepayers.

"Clean coal technologies continue to show promising results in Illinois and around the world,'' Quinn wrote. "Our state, with its abundance of coal and cutting-edge technologies, is positioned to take the lead. However, our investments in clean coal must not come at the expense of consumers.''

Critics of the project first voiced concerns over the power purchase stipulations in the bills that would require Ameren and other major gas utilities to purchase the synthetic gas produced at the plants at a fixed rate, even if cheaper natural gas became available. Consumer advocate groups contended the purchase agreements would have resulted in higher gas bills for Illinois consumers as utilities were forced to recoup higher fueling costs.

Meanwhile, proponents of the bill emphasized the veto represented a significant loss of economic and environmental benefits for Illinois. The coal gasification projects promised to create some 1,500 construction jobs and 700 permanent positions, while utilizing advanced carbon capture technologies that pledged to reduce 85 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions at the plants. Advocates also proposed that the captured carbon dioxide could then be pumped to the Gulf Coast, where it would be used to force oil out of depleted wells, or to a designated storage site.

Chicago Clean Energy, the company behind the proposed Southeast Chicago coal gasification project, said it will reassess the situation to determine its next steps.

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