SPRINGFIELD – As a U.S. Senate Committee hearing is underway on Capitol Hill, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich sent a letter to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) again making the case for why the landmark FutureGen clean coal project must move forward as originally planned in Mattoon, Illinois. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development will hold a hearing today on FutureGen. The Governor’s letter to Sen. Durbin highlights the critical need for this project and documents the state’s efforts to make the revolutionary project a reality, despite 11th hour attempts by the U.S. Department of Energy to abandon the project. Because the state was not invited as a witness, the Governor asked Senator Durbin to share this information with his colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“Since the Alliance announced the selection of Mattoon last December, the drumbeat of urgency in finding solutions to global warming has grown ever louder. Leaders in Congress, Republicans and Democrats, along with Presidential candidates of all stripes, are calling for meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. FutureGen is an important means to that end,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
FutureGen is a $1.8 billion coal gasification facility, which will convert coal into hydrogen and electricity, while pioneering the capture and safe storage of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide deep underground. It is intended to lay the groundwork for developing similar plants around the country and the world. Proceeding with FutureGen as planned also will pave the way for America’s continued use of coal and enabling coal to be an engine for job creation and economic growth.
“For two years, the State of Illinois has stated our case as to why we should be chosen to host this landmark project. The Mattoon site was chosen based on science – exactly as it should be – and the DOE’s attempts to railroad this project have no merit,” said Jack Lavin, director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. “FutureGen as it was originally designed is an important step in addressing the issue of global climate change and is too important to Illinois and the world to delay any longer. We are continuing to make sizable steps, even as DOE continues to drag its feet, and I hope Congress will act quickly to put the project back on track.”
The FutureGen-Illinois’ supporters, led by Senator Durbin, in Congress hope to sustain the project’s momentum until a new administration is in place in Washington D.C.
Similar efforts in Illinois have been underway since DOE announced their plans to restructure the project on Dec 19th. The state’s efforts reached a pivotal point earlier this month, with Gov. Blagojevich approving a $677,000 grant to fund a major vibration testing effort designed to provide final assurance that CO2 can be injected and stored safely a mile beneath the site.
In April, the FutureGen Alliance and local economic development group Coles Together agreed to purchase the 440-acre site near Mattoon that was chosen for the FutureGen project. Coles Together has pledged $3 million in private economic development funds toward land acquisition. The Alliance share of the land costs will come from non-public funds provided by the group’s 13 member companies.
President Bush initiated FutureGen in 2003, and as recently as his State of the Union Address, reiterated that environmentally responsible energy is essential to keeping our economy growing. On November 30, 2007, DOE reaffirmed that the project was moving forward as planned. In December, 2007 Mattoon, Illinois was chosen as the site of the FutureGen project. After it became clear that an Illinois site would be chosen over a Texas site, the Energy Department suggested the project be dismantled. Department of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman has been sharply criticized on Capitol Hill for this decision.
The FutureGen Alliance, the project’s developer, has vowed to continue working with the State of Illinois and the Illinois Congressional Delegation to ensure the project moves forward and succeeds in Mattoon.
Office of the Governor
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Rod R. Blagojevich
May 7, 2008
Honorable Richard Durbin
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Durbin:
I was pleased to learn that the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development plans to hold a hearing on May 8, 2008, to examine the FutureGen project. As the state that was chosen as the site for this plant, Illinois is a significant stakeholder in this discussion. I am writing to provide a brief overview of the investments made here in Illinois in support of FutureGen and to summarize what this project means for Mattoon and the state. I hope that you will share this information with your colleagues on the Appropriations Committee so that they are aware of the considerable investment in FutureGen by the State of Illinois and the people of Mattoon and Coles County.
A rigorous selection process clearly demonstrated why Mattoon and Illinois would be the ideal hosts for FutureGen. We submitted our bid; we answered all of the follow-up questions, and we waited anxiously for a decision. Almost as soon as Mattoon was selected as the host site, the Department of Energy unilaterally changed the rules, abruptly and unwisely attempting to scuttle FutureGen. Be assured that, our passion for and commitment to FutureGen is unbowed by these setbacks.
We are unwilling to accept the decision by DOE as the last word on the subject and remain dedicated to ensuring that FutureGen becomes a reality as originally envisioned. Delays have cost us precious time and money, but we hope that Congress will act promptly to curb the damage and put the project back on track.
Few stakeholders have more insight, or keener interest in the outcome of this process than the State of Illinois. We have worked for five years on initiatives related to carbon capture and storage, including two years in support of two finalist sites for the FutureGen project. Our investment of in excess of $2 million will be money well spent if the outcome is a better environment for our children.
Our bid for FutureGen, submitted last fall, included a ready 440-acre site with a top-notch geological profile. Time and again, we demonstrated unwavering community enthusiasm for the project, along with bipartisan, top-to-bottom political support. We offered an attractive incentive package that included provisions for the state of Illinois to assume liability for sequestered carbon dioxide and participate in the long-term monitoring of the injected CO2.
As partners in the effort to preserve and sustain FutureGen as originally envisioned, Mattoon and the State of Illinois are working diligently to maintain the project’s viability and sustain its momentum. As one tangible example, Coles Together has forged an agreement with the FutureGen Alliance to contribute $3 million in community economic development funds toward the $6 million cost of securing the FutureGen site. In addition, I have approved a $677,000 grant to fund a major vibration testing effort designed to provide final assurance that CO2 can be injected and stored safely a mile beneath the site.
These actions should help dispel any doubts about the intentions of the Alliance member-companies, the State of Illinois and our partners in Coles County. It should tell any skeptics that when it comes time to build FutureGen, our exceptional site will be ready.
Since the Alliance announced the selection of Mattoon last December, the drumbeat of urgency in finding solutions to global warming has grown ever louder. Leaders in Congress, Republicans and Democrats, along with Presidential candidates of all stripes, are calling for meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. FutureGen is an important means to that end. In addition, there is no controversy over the science or engineering involved; experts from around the globe have reached consensus that FutureGen represents a dramatic next step toward developing near-zero emissions coal-to-electric power technology. For all these reasons, FutureGen has the support of environmentalists, coal producers and electric utilities spanning six continents.
There is an opportunity at hand, one that may not present itself again for months or years to come. The Department of Energy’s recent attempt to redesign this project and start over is penny wise and pound foolish. Anything without FutureGen’s international participation will put the U.S. behind the rest of the world. Anything other than FutureGen will be too little and too late.
While this Save-Our-FutureGen initiative makes its way on Capitol Hill, please convey to your colleagues, in the strongest terms possible, the sincerity and resolve of your partners-in-waiting in Illinois. We aren’t going anywhere. We have ridden this bus too long to get off before reaching our destination.
Rod R. Blagojevich