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Illinois energy coalition rails against coal-to-gas power plant

Some consumer and energy groups are at odds with lawmakers over a bill that would continue development of a coal-to-gas power plant on Chicago’s southeast side. The plant would turn Illinois coal and refinery waste into a natural gas substitute, without having to burn the coal.

Opponents are urging Governor Pat Quinn to veto the bill (SB3766) which they said would hurt consumers by forcing natural gas customers around Illinois to pay higher rates to subsidize the project, amounting to $8.5 million over 30 years.

 “The average consumer, the average house in Illinois, would pay $170 to $190 more per year for natural gas if this legislature is signed into law,” said Mark Denzler, Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer for the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

Some environmental groups said "coal gasification" creates more air and other pollution than traditional coal-fired plants. They also said the plant would require an energy-intensive process to create an unnecessary synthetic natural gas supply.

“We’re going to have at least billions of pounds of carbon dioxide coming out of the plant every year,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club’s Illinois Chapter. “That’s an added cost that we should be very mindful of before we sign on the dotted line for 30 years for this Lucadia gas plant.”

State Sen. Donne E. Trotter (D-Chicago) sponsored the bill. He said technology that would be used in the plant has worked in other states and that the bill protects consumers.

“This is the same chicken little groups that run around with anything that doesn’t fit into their criteria of clean energy,” he said.

Trotter also said the bill will create thousands of jobs around the state, including in his district.

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