Veto deals another setback to Illinois coal industry

March 15, 2011

By Gabriel Spitzer

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With the veto of two energy projects yesterday, Governor Pat Quinn dealt another setback to Illinois coal producers. But an industry spokesman says it’s more of a loss for the state than for the mine owners.

Quinn struck down two planned coal gasification plants – one in Chicago, and one in southern Illinois. The vetoes follow the failure of another project, a gasified coal power plant to be located in central Illinois. That project fell short in the Legislature. All three of the projects would have used coal mined in Illinois.

Phil Gonet, president of the Illinois Coal Association, said that means Illinois will have to continue importing most of its coal from western states like Wyoming and Colorado.

“Why are we sending our money to another state when we have the nation’s largest deposit of bituminous reserves under our border?” Gonet said.

Illinois coal has relatively high sulfur content, a major contributor to acid rain. Environmentalists and consumer groups strongly opposed the new plants, which would have likely increased utility bills and air pollution. But Phil Gonet says new markets on the east coast and abroad are still fueling demand for southern Illinois coal.