Last week, I offered my two and a half cents on the recent $1 billion infusion of federal funds into the FutureGen project, a “clean” coal plant slated originally for implementation at the end of 2012. Since that time, a small Illinois town has thrown a wrench into the ambitious plans. Mattoon, Illinois declined further participation in the project since terms of the original deal changed. Initially, Mattoon was to be the home of a newly constructed “clean” coal plant as well as the carbon sequestration site. However, in an effort to get the project moving, the administration decided instead to alter an existing facility, located in Meredosia, Illinois, as opposed to constructing a new site in Mattoon. A pipeline would deliver the sequestered carbon and waste to Mattoon from the Meredosia plant under the new plan. So, Mattoon would be able to store the waste, but not receive the benefits of a newly constructed facility. The town declined, and rightfully so.
Mattoon was selected as the site for the new plant in December 2007 after being carefully compared with 11 other potential locations in seven states (Meredosia was not one of the four finalist sites). The town, located in Coles County, was naturally excited about the estimated 1,300 construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs that were to be generated by the new Mattoon construction project. Initially, the state anticipated a $1 billion infusion into the Illinois economy during the four-year construction phase. Under the revised plan, which calls for a retrofit of the Ameren facility in Meredosia, estimates are for the creation of between 47-50 permanent jobs and several more construction jobs. The Department of Energy had the final say about what plants would be retrofitted.
So, how does this affect the future of FutureGen? At best, it only delays the already stalled project. But, no doubt, the plan will go on. In response to the Mattoon decision, several other Illinois towns, including Decatur and Springfield, have come forward expressing their interest in the project. For the present, we watch and wait and offer Mattoon an extra firm round of applause for its independence and refusal to be short-changed.