State Senate passes electric rate hikes to underwrite dirty coal

November 30, 2011

By Environment Illinois

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois Senate voted Nov. 29 to force Illinois citizens and businesses to purchase power from a proposed coal plant operated by Tenaska, an out-of-state corporation.

The bill, S.B. 678, has been repeatedly rejected because of concerns about the exorbitant cost of the project, the huge amounts of new pollution it may emit, and the unproven nature of its pollution controls.

Just in time for the holidays, the General Assembly is literally delivering a lump of coal to the people of Illinois,” said Shannon Fisk of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Merry Christmas — enjoy unnecessarily increased electricity bills! Happy Hanukkah — here’s a massive pollution plume! But Tenaska gets the biggest gift of all — a guaranteed profit funded by individuals and business throughout Illinois.”

Illinois consumers would be expected to pay up to seven times today’s market price for electricity to subsidize this out-of-state company. Even if the plant is built on time and without overruns, this will amount to a $286-million increase in electric rates every year for the next 30 years.

Jack Darin, director of Sierra Club Illinois, said: “This terrible burden on families and on businesses is going to have devastating consequences on our economy and will cost Illinois thousands of jobs, including lost manufacturing jobs across the state. We’ve created over 14,000 renewable energy jobs in Illinois by encouraging competition, protecting ratepayers, and investing in proven technology. That’s the smart way to create clean energy jobs, without jeopardizing our health and Springfield picking the winners that the rest of us are forced to subsidize.”

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) recently estimated Tenaska’s potential at more than 10 billion pounds per year, including health-threatening lead and mercury. Tenaska itself admits to the IEPA that the pollution control plan in S.B. 678 is “not commercially available.”

Bruce Ratain, clean energy associate with Environment Illinois, said: “Our senators bowed to political pressure and special interests, supporting a bill that is unequivocally bad policy. While this plant was marketed as clean coal, this was just a masquerade. In this case, you can put a dirty pig in a tuxedo, but it’s still just a dirty pig. Tenaska’s bill should have never been let out of its pen.”

All three environmental groups oppose the Tenaska bill, and are urging the Illinois House to do the same.

Fisk concluded, “The House can show some serious leadership by putting an end to yet another special interest smudge on the state.”

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