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Feds Boost Downstate "Clean Coal"

July 29, 2010

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The Department of Energy has told the developer of the Taylorville Energy Center that it qualifies for more than $400 million in tax credits to build a so-called "clean coal" plant. That is one of the largest subsidies to a single project in Illinois. The developer, Tenaska, says the project will create 2,500 construction jobs, and hundreds of permanent jobs after that.

But, Becki Clayborn, regional representative for the Illinois Sierra Club, says her organization would rather not see the money go to the coal industry.

"We think that that money actually could boost a whole slew of renewable energy and energy efficiency jobs that would be a whole green economy we haven't seen yet."

There are strings attached to the tax credits. Developers of "clean coal" must prove a project will capture at least 65 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions and either sell them to commercial processors or send the CO2 back into earth.

She says she would like to see higher goals.

"Sixty-five percent reduction from this power plant is not enough. We actually need to be stopping new CO2 and reducing another eighty percent."

No plant that emits greenhouse gases should be built, says Clayborn, however, she does agree that energy efficiency is a key to good energy policy.

David Kolaka, president of the consumer group The Citizens Utility Board, says there's a hidden danger in building huge new plants; cost overruns. But, he's willing to give this project a chance, mainly because of a state law that requires a two-percent cap on any resulting rate hike.

"Building new plants isn't the only thing that we should do. In fact, we should be focus more on energy efficiency because that's always the cheapest."

The Illinois Commerce Commission is examining the cost estimates for the plant. Then, it goes to the state legislature for consideration. The tax credits are coming from economic stimulus money set aside for clean energy projects aimed at cutting greenhouse gases. Those credits are also available for technologies like solar, wind, biomass and geothermal.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL