Union commits support to Illinois for FutureGen

THE United Mine Workers of America has put its support behind Illinois to become the home of the FutureGen project.
Union commits support to Illinois for FutureGen Union commits support to Illinois for FutureGen Union commits support to Illinois for FutureGen Union commits support to Illinois for FutureGen Union commits support to Illinois for FutureGen

A vision of the Futuregen power plant, courtesy Department of Energy.

Donna Schmidt

The 20,000-member national union, as well as the states of West Virginia and Michigan, is pushing for the $US1.5 billion project, currently awaiting final site selection, to be ultimately located in one of Illinois' two finalist towns, Mattoon or Tuscola.

"Illinois fills the bill for FutureGen with superior geology and ample water resources," UMWA president Cecil Roberts said.

"Moreover, Illinois is centrally located to bring coal from the nation's major producing regions to the FutureGen facility at the least cost to the project and to the environment.

"It is a simple matter, in our opinion. A coal project of this importance belongs in a coal state."

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin told Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in a letter that coal-rich states have "unique challenges" which they all share.

"Surmounting these challenges is best accomplished as a team. I feel the Illinois sites best reflect the need of our nation's coal industry and the economy of coal states [and] I support an Illinois FutureGen location," Manchin said.

Added Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm: "I appreciate the mission and efforts of the FutureGen Energy Alliance, and strongly support Illinois' efforts to locate this innovative and unprecedented project in the Midwest."

The coalition of states and industry supporting Illinois for FutureGen now represents about 75% of the nation's annual coal production and 59% of US reserves.

"Seven of my fellow governors, joined by the Kentucky Office of Energy Policy and the United Mine Workers of America, are united in their belief that FutureGen should be built in a coal state whose geology and other assets lend themselves for readily transferring the project's technology both nationally and internationally," said Blagojevich.

A decision on the final home for the project, which the FutureGen Industrial Alliance is developing in conjunction with the US Department of Energy, is expected in mid-December. The other finalist towns are Jewett and Odessa, Texas.

Last month, the DOE made its environmental impact statement for the project available, stating all four potential sites for the facility in both Illinois and Texas would be feasible.

"The EIS evaluated four potential sites to host the project - Mattoon, Illinois; Tuscola, Illinois; Jewett, Texas; and Odessa, Texas - and preliminarily found that these sites were acceptable locations for funding the FutureGen project," the agency said at the time.

Wyoming, the nation's leading coal-producing state, also committed its support to Illinois a few weeks ago.

Members of the FutureGen Alliance include American Electric Power, Anglo American, BHP Billiton, the China Huaneng Group, Consol Energy, E.ON US, Foundation Coal, Rio Tinto Energy America, Peabody Energy, PPL Corporation, Southern Company and Xstrata Coal.

FutureGen will produce 275 megawatts of electric power, or enough electricity to power 150,000 homes, as well as hydrogen for fuel-cell technology.

Alliance to grow?

Also on Monday, Energy Future Holdings subsidiary Luminant said it has submitted itself for membership in the FutureGen Alliance.

Energy Future Holdings was known as TXU Corporation until its acquisition in November by a group including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co and Texas Pacific Group.

"Joining FutureGen is a sign of our commitment to explore new, innovative, emerging technologies that will help generate cleaner, more efficient energy," said Luminant chief Mike Greene.

"I believe the success of the FutureGen Alliance will ultimately result in a cleaner source of power generation, to include some form of carbon capture."