JOHNSTON CITY – In another important step towards revitalizing the Illinois coal industry and creating more jobs for Illinois families, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich signed legislation today making it possible for Illinois to remain highly competitive as a site for FutureGen, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) $1 billion, 10-year demonstration project to create the world's first coal-based, zero-emissions power plant. This public-private project would make Illinois the leader in the development of the most advanced technologies for hydrogen production from coal – coal gasification.
Gov. Blagojevich’s initiative, as spelled out in Senate Bill 1814, adds FutureGen to the types of developments eligible for tax and financing incentives through the Illinois Coal Revival Program, which is administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).
“There is no doubt in my mind that Illinois has everything the U.S. Department of Energy needs to ensure that FutureGen is a tremendous success. This legislation is a strong signal that Illinois is ready to invest in this project with our private partners in the coal industry. We have a great opportunity to demonstrate to the world that there are innovative and environmentally-friendly ways to use more Illinois coal, which will give this critical industry an important economic boost and create more good jobs. FutureGen belongs in Illinois, and I will continue doing everything I can to get it here,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
Gov. Blagojevich has been working with the Illinois Congressional delegation and other elected officials to demonstrate why DOE should choose Illinois for FutureGen. The Governor has sent a delegation to Washington, DC to meet with DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy to present Illinois’ very compelling case. DOE is expected to make a final decision on FutureGen’s location within the next two years.
A consortium of major U.S. energy industry businesses ultimately will be named to manage FutureGen as a research center and coal-fueled producer of electric power and hydrogen fuel cells. Its other major feature is sequestration of carbon dioxide, storing the greenhouse gas underground or dispensing with it in some other ecologically sound manner.
State Senator Gary Forby (D-Benton) and State Rep. Dan Reitz (D-Sparta) sponsored Senate Bill 1814.
“Gov. Blagojevich and I are dedicated to doing everything we can to help open new markets for Illinois coal, and this legislation gives us a very powerful tool to do just that. FutureGen would not only bring cutting-edge coal research to Illinois, but more jobs and a cleaner environment. That is exactly the kind of economic development the Governor is championing,” State Senator Forby said.
"We have the chance to grow the coal industry and create good jobs in a way that won't damage our environment. Gov. Blagojevich and I are committed to landing FutureGen and other coal projects for Illinois, and this legislation is a clear demonstration of how serious we are in this campaign," Rep. Reitz said.
SB 1814 allows the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) to provide FutureGen, along with other innovative coal gasification projects, with a wide range of incentives, from tax exemptions and credits to low-cost financing, through DCEO’s Coal Revival Program. The Illinois Finance Authority also has up to $300 million in bonding authority to support clean coal development projects, including FutureGen and other gasification projects.
Gov. Blagojevich signed the new coal legislation at Steelhead Energy Company, LLC. Steelhead is developing the Southern Illinois Clean Energy Center, which will be a coal gasification production facility for electricity and substitute natural gas in Williamson County. The project has been modernized from a conventional power plant and will eventually use 2.8 million tons of Illinois coal per year. Gov. Blagojevich is investing $2.5 million in this project that will create 400 construction jobs, almost 100 full-time and nearly 300 part-time jobs. The Southern Illinois Clean Energy Center is another project that can benefit from the passage of SB 1814.
Among the other initiatives that could benefit from SB 1814 is the $442 million conversion of the Royster-Clark Nitrogen fertilizer plant in East Dubuque from natural gas to Illinois coal as a feedstock. That project gets underway later this year and will create 200 new jobs. Gov. Blagojevich has already made a $3 million investment and a public-private clean-coal endowment has provided another $2 million to assist with engineering and design work.
Two other projects to make electric power or chemicals from coal have also been proposed, one in Williamson County and a second near Taylorville in Christian County.
In a further effort to promote the development of the clean-coal market in Illinois, Gov. Blagojevich also signed a bill that will make it easier for coal producers to find secondary markets for the byproducts of coal production. Senate Bill 1909 amends the Illinois Environmental Protection Act to provide more flexibility for coal producers to recycle coal combustion waste to make products such as brick and concrete blocks and road paving materials. Moreover, recycling the coal waste means that it is diverted from landfills, saving coal producers the costs of land disposal fees.
Senate Bill 1909 is sponsored by State Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton) and State Rep. Dan Reitz (D-Sparta).
“We’re not only helping increase the use of clean coal, but helping accelerate the growth of a new market of recycled coal products. Allowing our coal producers to operate more efficiently will help them reduce their costs and increase their revenue, and that will spur more job creation and economic growth throughout our community,” State Senator Haine said.
SB 1814 will take effect immediately, while SB 1909 will take effect January 1, 2006.