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Friday, June 10, 2011 11:27 pm

Heirs to FutureGen land oppose project

All six heirs to nearly 40 percent of the land promised to FutureGen 2.0 want the “clean” coal project to go away, says Jeffery and Betty Niemann, Jacksonville residents related to the late Bill Beilschmidt.

Beilschmidt, upon his death in 1999, placed more than 600 acres of land located near Ashland in two separate trusts with Farmer State Bank, Niemann says. As managers of the trust, the bank earlier this year entered into contracts with FutureGen Alliance, giving the organization rights to the land’s 5,000-foot deep geologic formations, where carbon dioxide from a retrofitted Ameren power plant in Meredosia would be buried as part of a “clean” coal project funded largely by the U.S. Department of Energy.

About 250 acres from the Beilschmidt farm are held in a trust benefitting various charities, but nearly 400 acres of that land went to a family trust. Farmer State Bank has promised all of the land to FutureGen, and that land now makes up more than 60 percent of the 1,000 acres needed for the underground carbon dioxide storage area.

FutureGen would begin burying carbon dioxide at the site by 2016, according to FutureGen Alliance CEO Ken Humphreys. But, the land held in the trust for Beilschmidt’s descendants will no longer be held by the bank in 2016, when it goes into the hands of Beilschmidt’s six heirs, including Jeffery Niemann.

“I am not in favor of CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) nor FutureGen,” Niemann told a panel of DOE officials Thursday evening during a public scoping meeting. Niemann says he’s not convinced the project is safe or that it will produce as many jobs as proponents claim.

Thursday night was the first time Niemann, who was joined by his wife and another heir, publicly expressed his opposition.

DOE officials declined to comment, stating that land acquisition is being handled by the FutureGen Alliance, a non-profit organization made up of businesses including Exelon, Peabody and Caterpillar.

“It’s a wrinkle,” Humphreys says about the Beilschmidt heirs’ opposition.

Humphreys adds that the contracts entered into by the bank should still be effective when the land is passed on to the heirs, regardless of their approval. “The purpose of a trust that controls land is to manage that land in the best interest of the resource, and I think that’s clearly what the trust is doing and to the best of my knowledge it’s the trust as opposed to someone who may be a future beneficiary who ultimately makes the decision,” Humphreys says.

Representatives from Farmer State Bank left the meeting before Illinois Times could approach them, and the bank was closed following the meeting’s late night adjournment.
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