Clean Coal Project Restructured

By Jeff Kohmstedt | Apr 15, 2008
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In late January, 2008, Energy -Secretary Samuel W. Bodman announced that the federal government would restructure a $1.8 billion power plant in Mattoon, Ill., because of cost concerns and questions about the project’s relevance. Many believe the restructuring will ultimately lead to the project’s demise.

The FutureGen plant, touted as- -emissions-free coal burning, might have meant consistent work for electrical contractors in the area. For Robert McClain of Anderson Electric in Mattoon, this project had the potential for increasing sales significantly.

“For us, we only do 4 percent of volume in the area. This project would have increased that. We had high hopes that this project would come through,” McClain said.

The Energy Department explained the project had doubled its projected cost and that it had doubts the technology would live up to its claims. According to the Energy Department, a restructuring of the project was necessary.

“This restructured FutureGen approach is an all-around better investment for Americans,” Bodman said. “As technological advancements have been realized in the last five years, we are eager to demonstrate CCS technology on commercial plants that, when operational, will be the cleanest coal-fired plants in the world.”

The 275-megawatt plant that was slated for a tract of land northwest of the city would have meant jobs for contractors of all sizes and types. From masons and laborers to heating, cooling and air conditioning contractors, construction groups of all trades had the opportunity to expand their businesses. The same goes for the electrical contractor.

“Anyone from residential to commercial to heavy industrial would have been affected,” McClain said. “It would mean more road making, and a railroad spur would have gone in, too.”

The reaction from Illinois legislators in Washington to the FutureGen issue has been loud and bipartisan. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said, “In 25 years on Capitol Hill, I have never witnessed such a cruel deception.”

Republican Congressman John Shimkus of Springfield said, “I do not believe this plan is a step in the right direction, and I am extremely disappointed. The people of Mattoon feel at best misled.”

Bipartisanship aside, local contractors are not taking this lying down either. Contractors from many industries have formed a state-wide alliance that has lobbied all legislative bodies for this plant. Contractors feel it is a missed opportunity.

“We haven’t heard anything back since the announcement,” McClain said, “but we haven’t given up on it. It’s all politics, and we think the administration has sold us down the river.”


About The Author

Jeff Kohmstedt is a freelance writer in Champaign, Ill. He can be reached at [email protected].


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