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Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010 01:02 am

CO2 study group stalled

Group to report on carbon capture by Dec. 31 hasn’t met

A commission created in 2009 to study issues related to carbon capture and sequestration has yet to meet, despite being charged with reporting to the Illinois General Assembly by the end of the year.

During a hearing held earlier this month by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), Illinois Sierra Club regional representative Becki Clayborn noted that acting ICC Chairman Manuel Flores was a member of the Carbon Capture and Sequestration Legislation Commission signed into law about one year ago. Flores, who was not immediately available for comment earlier this week, said during the ICC hearing he was unaware of the special commission’s existence.

At the time, the ICC was taking testimony regarding the Taylorville Energy Center (TEC), a proposed coal-to-gas power plant that would store carbon dioxide (CO2) underground. The ICC is scheduled to report by Sept. 2 to the General Assembly about rate impacts of the proposed plant so legislators can vote on agreements between the project’s developer, Tenaska, and electric suppliers who could be forced to purchase the plant’s electricity at above-market prices.

The CO2 commission is supposed to report to the General Assembly by Dec. 31 about issues including CO2 ownership and liability, ownership of pore space in geologic formations and methods of transporting CO2. It’s also supposed to look at if and how any fees for capture and sequestration should be applied and at any necessary coordination with federal regulations.

“It is not appropriate for the state to move forward on this power plant until its own commission on CO2 … has reported back to the General Assembly,” Clayborn told the ICC during the Aug. 12 hearing.

The CO2 commission’s chairman and director of the Illinois Power Agency, Mark Pruitt, says he’s planning a series of seven meetings starting in September and he plans to issue a report by the original deadline. He says the TEC and the CO2 commission are related but separate issues. The CO2 commission will ask, “If we’re going to facilitate measurement, collection, transportation of this material, how does current statute stand? Does it hinder or assist in the development of that CO2 infrastructure?” Pruitt says. “The issue of should it be optimized is a separate discussion.”

Pruitt says the TEC’s potential implementation of CO2 capture and storage would help highlight policy areas that need to be addressed. “To do one project, do you need a statewide policy? Perhaps not. If you get through that project and want to do 10 more, then . . . you maybe do need to have a policy,” Pruitt says.

Another member appointed to the CO2 commission is Phil O’Connor, former ICC chairman, now spokesman for the STOP Coalition, a business group opposing the TEC. He agrees that the CO2 commission’s report is related to the ICC’s current efforts, but has no direct impact. “There is a relationship, but it would not be fair to say that it bears dramatically on the current debate,” O’Connor says, explaining that the issues the CO2 commission would address are “more esoteric” than the cost-benefit concerns the ICC is now studying.

ICC spokesman Brian Sterling says the carbon capture commission’s schedule will not affect the ICC’s expected report date and that they have no effect on each other.

Contact Rachel Wells at rwells@illinoistimes.com.
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