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Burris and Durbin ask DOE chief for decision on coal plant
Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Roland Burris, along with several other Midwestern lawmakers, took a critical step last week toward making the planned 275-megawatt coal-gasification plant, commonly referred to as FutureGen, a reality.
In a letter to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Burris and Durbin asked for the release of the project’s Record of Decision, a document certifying that the plans for FutureGen meet federal environmental requirements.
“FutureGen is our country’s best hope for building and operating a near-zero-emission coal-fired power plant,” the senators wrote. The facility proposes to limit carbon emissions by utilizing an experimental technology that captures and stores pollutants in underground rock formations.
After approving FutureGen for construction in nearby Mattoon, the Bush Administration jettisoned the program in 2008 due to spiraling costs, and never issued the Record of Decision.
Despite President Barack Obama’s campaign statements advocating clean coal solutions, Chu is not a fervent coal booster.
Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, once called coal his “worst nightmare.” During his recent confirmation hearing, he softened that position, however,
saying: “Coal is an abundant resource in the world. . . . India, China, Russia and the United States, I believe, will not turn their back
on coal, so it is imperative that we figure out a way to use coal as cleanly as
Sens. Claire McCaskill and Kit Bond of Missouri and Sherrod Brown and George Voinovich of Ohio also signed off on the letter asking for the environmental certification. McCaskill and Brown are Democrats; Bond and Voinovich are Republicans.
According to Durbin spokeswoman Christina Mulka, Chu had not yet responded to the letter as of this week but Durbin is looking forward to having a decision as soon as possible.