By Pat Barcas
CHICAGO — Plans for a $3 billion coal-to-natural gas plant on Chicago’s southeast side that could have employed thousands of union workers have been vetoed by Governor Pat Quinn.
Senate Bill 3766 was vetoed by Quinn August 10. The project aimed to employ new technology that turns coal into natural gas through a process called gasification.
Critics said the clean energy project meant passing the construction and maintenance costs onto consumers.
Non-profit utility watchdog organization Citizens Utility Board (CUB) Executive Director David Kolata released a statement upon Quinn’s decision:
“CUB commends the governor for standing up for Illinois consumers and vetoing a bill that would have unfairly dumped the lion’s share of the plant’s costs on consumers in suburban Chicago and Central and Southern Illinois. CUB is willing to work with Leucadia National Corp. and other parties to structure a proposal that is fair to all Illinois consumers. Thanks to all who used CUB’s Action Network to send 1,700 messages asking the governor to veto this unfair bill.”
Senate Bill 3766 would have required energy companies Ameren and Nicor to sign 30-year contracts to buy natural gas from Leucadia National Corp.’s proposed plant. Ameren and Nicor customers would have been required to cover all or nearly all of the $3 billion in costs to build and operate the plant, and could have paid significantly higher rates.
This is the second time Gov. Quinn vetoed a pro-Leucadia bill. Last year, the governor got out his veto pen and forced the company to make concessions, applying a cap on rate increases and creating a $150 million fund to help soften the blow to consumers.
Chicago Clean Energy, the company that was to bring the plant to Illinois along with Leucadia National, released a statement on its web site regarding the decision:
“After repeatedly earning strong, bi-partisan support for this project from the Illinois House and Senate, and having enjoyed support from communities throughout Illinois, we are deeply disappointed in the governor’s decision to veto SB 3766. We know that this $3 billion investment in Illinois was going to be good for the state’s economy, its environment, its workers and its consumers. While we find the governor’s decision unfortunate, we will not seek to override the veto, and we look forward to continuing our work at our other facilities throughout the country.”
Pat Barcas’ e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.