Illinois in the Lurch with FutureGen

January 30, 2008

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Artist rendering of propsed Futuregen site.

The federal government says it's likely to back out of the futuristic coal-fired power plant called FutureGen.

Here are the FutureGen fundamentals. The power plant was supposed to showcase the cleanest coal-burning technology, and it was supposed to create thousands of Illinois construction jobs. So it was news when the coal industry selected Mattooon as FutureGen's home. That was in December.

Department of Energy spokesperson Julie Ruggiero says the coal industry alliance jumped the gun.

RUGGIERO: The department had requested the alliance hold off and let the department more fully evaluate the FutureGen project and its next steps. It was really disappointing, as a majority partner in this effort that the alliance decided to move forward with site selection without a record of decision.

Ruggiero says FutureGen had grown too costly. She says the project's cost swelled to nearly $1.8 billion. The government says it will rework its clean-coal research program, but wouldn't say whether Illinois will play a part.

I'm Shawn Allee, Chicago Public Radio.