Mattoon, Tuscola on short list

TUSCOLA – Tuscola and Mattoon have been chosen as two of the four finalists for the $1 billion FutureGen power plant, along with Odessa, Texas, and the "Heart of Brazos" site near Jewett, Texas.

Effingham and Marshall, the other two Illinois communities that submitted siting proposals, didn't make the short list, according to U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson's office. FutureGen officials announced the finalists this morning at Washington's National Press Club.

Competition was intense to attract the generation plant because it will have a significant impact on their local economies.

FutureGen officials say plant construction may generate as many as 1,300 jobs with a combined pay of about $250 million. When construction is complete, the plant is expected to bring 150 permanent jobs to the community selected.

In addition to Effingham and Marshall, sites that had been considered but are no longer in the running include: Henderson County, Ky.; Bowman County, N.D.; Meigs and Tuscarawas counties in Ohio; Point Pleasant, W.Va., and Gillette, Wyo.

Company officials are expected to announce the final location in late summer or early fall next year.

FutureGen is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy and FutureGen Industrial Alliance, a not-for-profit international consortium of private companies that use or produce coal.

Project officials say they aim to build the world's cleanest power plant with near-zero emissions. It will convert coal into a gas that can be turned into enough electricity to power 150,000 average U.S. homes.

It will also produce a hydrogen gas that can be used in refineries or clean-burning hydrogen fuel cells. A byproduct of the process, carbon dioxide, would be stored underground in geologic formations.

Alliance chief executive Michael Mudd said teams of experts have used more than 100 different criteria to rate the communities that submitted site applications. They include physical site factors and factors such as economic incentives, expedited permitting and ready markets for the electricity and hydrogen.

He said the process was designed to be "fair, transparent and based on specific criteria."

Now that the finalists have been announced, the evaluation process will begin again.

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