CARTERVILLE – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich praised the United States Environmental Protection Agency for recently upholding the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s technical and legal bases to issue a permit to construct a new coal-fueled energy plant. Peabody Energy plans to build the new Prairie State Energy Campus, a 1,500-megawatt generating plant and coal mine that will provide clean, low-cost electricity using state-of-the-art technologies. This more than $2 billion project is estimated to inject nearly $100 million annually into the Illinois economy, create approximately 2,500 jobs at peak construction and 450 skilled, permanent Illinois jobs. The Prairie State Energy Campus is the largest private capital project ever planned for Southern Illinois. It represents a major victory for the Illinois coal industry and continues to usher in a new era of clean-coal technology that will reduce U.S. reliance on imported energy.
“For coal to be king again in Southern Illinois it has to be clean, and that is what the Prairie State Energy Campus is all about. This is going to take advantage of one of our greatest natural resources in an environmentally responsible way, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and put thousands and thousands of people to work,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
The Prairie State Energy Campus could be supported by significant state financing, which would help it obtain lower interest rates. The Illinois Finance Authority (IFA) currently has available up to $2.7 billion in bonds for Illinois coal and energy projects. Gov. Blagojevich also signed landmark coal legislation that permits up to $300 million of this bonding authority to help launch many different clean coal development projects such as Prairie State. These financing tools were critical to attracting Peabody Energy to Illinois because of the significant financial savings it may provide for the company. Additionally, it could be eligible for grants from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s (DCEO) Office of Coal Development.
“This decision affirms that Prairie State is designed with next generation technology and will achieve state and federal standards to protect the environment,” Peabody President of Generation and Btu Conversion Rick Bowen said. “It's a major milestone for the project, and great news for the vast majority of Southern Illinois residents who support Prairie State and want to see us break ground.”
The planned 1,500-megawatt electric generation facility in Washington County will be fueled by more than 6 million tons of coal produced each year from an adjacent underground mine. The campus is designed to provide electricity for up to 1.5 million families. The 450 jobs created by the project will pay wages that are estimated to be more than 40 percent higher than the state average.
The Governor and state officials have worked closely with the Prairie State initiative to bring the project along. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency issued the air permit for the project in June 2005.
“USEPA’s decision confirms that the permit we issued to Prairie State meets stringent air quality standards and will ensure that the environment is protected and that clean coal plants have a place in our nation’s energy mix,” Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Doug Scott said.
“This project is a great example of state government and the private sector working together to create economic as well as environmental progress. Prairie State Energy Campus is the front runner among an exciting group of clean coal technology projects that can be supported with Clean Coal Development financing. The Illinois Finance Authority is committed to helping Peabody Energy and its partners become one of the first to receive the significant benefit that these coal bonds can provide, with the level of support that is required to ensure success of the project,” Illinois Finance Authority Interim Executive Director Jill Rendleman said.
A study prepared by Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) reveals that Peabody Energy’s planned Prairie State Energy Campus would inject about $2.8 billion into the Illinois economy in new spending, job creation and induced economic activity over three decades of operation. Prairie State’s emissions will be dramatically better than the U.S. coal plant average, the Illinois coal plant average and even proposed emission limits well into the future.
“New technology is allowing coal to become a dynamic natural resource with the capacity to act as a tremendous source of job creation and economic growth. By providing this support for the Prairie State Energy Campus, Gov. Blagojevich is investing in a new future for Illinois coal and giving it the optimal chance to realize its full economic potential,” DCEO Director Jack Lavin said.
The Prairie State Interest Group currently owns 47 percent of the project and an equal amount of output and includes a consortium of Midwest utilities including the Indiana Municipal Power Agency; Kentucky Municipal Power Agency; Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission; Northern Illinois Municipal Power Agency; Soyland Power Cooperative, Inc. in Illinois; and Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, Inc., in Michigan.
The definitive ruling by the EPA’s Environmental Appeal Board on the appeal of the air permit issued by the Illinois EPA paves the way for project participants to move forward quickly to finalize development and construction plans.
Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU) is the world's largest private-sector coal company, with 2005 sales of 240 million tons of coal and $4.6 billion in revenues. Its coal products fuel approximately 10 percent of all U.S. electricity generation and 3 percent of worldwide electricity.