Future unclear for coal plant in central Illinois

January 14, 2011

Sean Crawford

Download Story
(WBEZ/file)
Plans for a high-tech coal power plant in central Illinois are stalled in the state legislature.

The future of a high tech coal plant in the central Illinois town of Taylorville is in jeopardy after state lawmakers voted down a construction plan. The project would burn Illinois' high sulfur coal while capturing and storing most emissions underground. 

Many in the legislature are cheerleaders for coal. But they rejected this idea after hard lobbying by the parent company of ComEd.

The plan would have electric utilities buy power from the Taylorville plant at a higher cost to help make up for the $3.5 billion price tag. Phil Gonet, President of the Illinois Coal Association, said the experimental technology could be used to upgrade aging coal plants around the state, assuming it ever gets built.

"There's a choice that's going to have to be made by the folks who are backing the project whether they stay in here or not," Gonet said.

Omaha, Neb.-based Tenaska, the company behind the Taylorville plant, has yet to scrap the project. A vice president called the defeat "disappointing." The final vote in the Illinois Senate found it had even less support than earlier.

Meanwhile, lawmakers approved two coal gasification plants--one in Chicago's south suburbs and another in southern Illinois--forcing gas companies to purchase from them.