LIVELY GROVE – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich celebrated the beginning of construction today for the Prairie State Energy Campus, a 1,500-plus 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 1,700 jobs at peak construction and more than 450 skilled, permanent Illinois jobs. The Prairie State Energy Campus is the largest private capital project ever planned for Southern Illinois.
“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. We are very excited to be celebrating the progress of this project because this is going to take advantage of one of our greatest natural resources in an environmentally responsible way, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, put thousands and thousands of people to work and provide affordable energy to consumers in Illinois and throughout the region,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
A significant portion of Prairie State will be marketed to wholesale electric suppliers via the nation’s electricity grid, providing additional competition to hold future power costs in check. To facilitate power transmission, Gov. Blagojevich announced today a $422,500 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's (DCEO) Coal Competitiveness program for a share of the capital costs associated with connecting to the power grid at the nearby Baldwin Substation. The substation upgrades are a part of a $68.5 million interconnect project for Prairie State. The Governor previously invested $422,500 for Phase 1 of the interconnect work.
“Prairie State will bring tremendous benefits to Illinois families by providing clean electricity through key participants, including the Soyland Cooperative in Jacksonville and the Northern Illinois Municipal Agency, representing the cities of Geneva, Batavia and Rochelle,” Prairie State President Colin Kelly said. “Prairie State has earned strong local and bipartisan support thanks to its ability to generate low-cost electricity, protect the environment and create economic opportunities through hundreds of permanent jobs and hundreds of millions in direct economic contributions.”
The Prairie State Energy Campus could also 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. Additionally, it could be eligible for additional grants from DCEO’s Office of Coal Development.
Furthermore, Prairie State will receive state and local tax exemptions and other abatements since it is located in the Nashville-Washington County Enterprise Zone. The developers have negotiated short-term property tax abatement agreements with taxing bodies in the area of the plant site.
The Prairie State partners have the ability to purchase 53 percent of the project equity and output. In addition to the Soyland Cooperative and Northern Illinois Municipal Agency, project partners include the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission; Indiana Municipal Power Agency; Kentucky Municipal Power Agency; and Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, Inc. in Michigan.
The major mine-mouth 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 more than 1.5 million Midwest 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.
"This group has a commitment to bring clean and affordable energy to their consumers, and that's what Prairie State does,” Prairie State President Colin Kelly said.
The development of the project has achieved a number of significant milestones with the signing of Michigan-based CMS Energy as operating partner. CMS and Peabody Energy will each own 15 percent of Prairie State indirectly through a joint venture. Additionally, Prairie State signed a letter of intent with Maryland-based Bechtel Power Corporation to perform engineering and procurement services.
The Governor and state officials have worked closely with the Prairie State initiative to bring the project to its current development phase. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) issued the air permit for the project in April 2005. The United States Environmental Protection Agency recently upheld IEPA’s technical and legal bases to issue a permit to construct a new coal-fueled energy plant, thus reaffirming that Prairie State is designed with next generation technology and will achieve state and federal standards to protect the environment.
“The permit application has undergone a rigorous review process by the IEPA, meeting stringent air-quality standards, and I am confident that this facility will operate cleaner and more efficiently than existing plants,” said Illinois EPA Director Doug Scott. “This modern facility is a major step forward and is proof that companies can be environmentally responsible by operating clean coal power plants, while providing economic benefits to the community in which they are built.”
A study prepared by Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) reveals that the planned Prairie State Energy Campus would inject nearly $100 million annually into the region in new spending, job creation and induced economic activity each year. Emissions would be one-fifth the average of existing U.S. coal plants.
“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.
“This project is a great example of state government and the private sector working together to create economic as well as environmental progress,” Illinois Finance Authority Interim Executive Director Jill Rendleman said. “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.”