State Line Energy plant is a hulking, red monster of a building that sits at the very northern tip of Hammond. The coal plant, which began operations in the 1950s, is also one of the first things you see when crossing the Chicago Skyway into Indiana.
Now, this fixture of the Chicago landscape is likely to shut down next year.
The reason is a mix of economics and environmental lawsuits. The federal Environmental Protection Agency, as well as environmental groups, have targeted the plant. The suits come alongside tougher federal emissions standards for several pollutants, including agents that cause smog. One set of new rules kicks in by 2015.
“Given that the price of (natural) gas is falling, we really can’t compete in the market,” says Dan Genest, spokesman for Dominion Energy, parent company of State Line Energy.
“That would require us to spend millions of dollars to achieve compliance by 2015. It does not make economic sense to spend that money for those controls at that station,” Genest said.
Genest said the plant could close by sometime next year or by June 1, 2014 at the latest.
“Our plans are to shut down in 2012. We will continue to operate the station as long as we could do so in compliance with environmental regulations, do it safely and make a profit,” Genest said. “As long as we are able to do that, we will run up until June 1, 2014.”
The plant’s probable shuttering is welcome news for groups like the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) of Chicago.
The NRDC has filed suit against State Line for its pollution emissions that contributes to overall poor air quality in Chicago and Northwest Indiana.
“That plant is really the poster child for a much larger problem with dirty coal plants in the region and around the nation. It is belching all kinds of pollutants we can easily control. It needed to either clean up or shut down. Shutting down is a very good option,” says NRDC attorney Ann Alexander.
The plant employs about 120 workers, with most represented by the United Steelworkers of America.
Those workers will be out of work, although some may land positions with Dominion’s other plants nationwide.
Genest says there are no plans to sell the plant. There’s also no word on what will happen to the facility or property once State Line is closed.