FutureGen sites get a last chance to make case

TUSCOLA – Tuscola residents will have one final chance to give their views on bringing a $1 billion clean-coal power plant to town. The FutureGen Alliance and the U.S. Department of Energy will hold a public hearing on June 28 at the Tuscola Community Building, 122 W. North Central Ave.

The evening will begin with an open house from 4 to 7 p.m., when residents can meet one-on-one with FutureGen and Department of Energy representatives to share their views.

A regular meeting will then begin at 7 p.m. to allow for public comments.

"This is another important opportunity for the public to review the environmental impact analysis that has been completed to date," said Brian Moody, executive director of Tuscola Economic Development Inc. "It will also be another chance for the public to meet and ask questions of the various agencies and individuals involved in this analysis.

"Of course, it is also another opportunity for the Illinois sites to extend a welcome to various officials attached to the FutureGen project. We are very much looking forward to the visit and the public hearings."

Tuscola will be the last of the four finalist communities to take part in public hearings.

Similar hearings are planned June 19 in Odessa, Texas, June 21 in Jewett, Texas, and June 26 at Riddle Elementary School in Mattoon.

"The upcoming public hearings are an extremely important part of the siting process," said FutureGen Alliance Chief Executive Officer Michael J. Mudd. "We look forward to hearing from these four communities and other interested parties."

The FutureGen Alliance wants to build the world's cleanest power plant with near-zero emissions to produce enough electricity to power 150,000 homes.

In addition, the plant is expected to produce hydrogen gas that could be used in refineries or clean-burning fuel cells.

The facility is expected to produce more than 1,000 construction jobs and 150 permanent plant jobs by 2012.

Tuscola's site is on farmland west of the city, not far from the Equistar and Cabot chemical production plants.



Tuscola site only finalist without endangered species

TUSCOLA – If protecting endangered species is a priority with organizers of the proposed FutureGen clean coal plant, Tuscola could be at an advantage. An environmental impact study released last week indicates Tuscola is the only one of four finalists for FutureGen that isn't the home of an endangered species or a potentially endangered species.

The report also stressed that none of the environmental concerns makes any of the four finalist towns ineligible to host FutureGen.

"I wouldn't say there is a clear-cut leader," said Mark McKoy of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Tuscola is competing against Jewett and Odessa, Texas, and Mattoon to get FutureGen, a state-of-the-art clean-coal gasification plant.

The FutureGen Alliance is expected to announce its decision later this year.

The study, which was produced by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory, identified four endangered species at the Jewett, Texas, site: the interior least tern, the Houston toad, Bachman's sparrow and the white-faced ibis.

The study identified one endangered species at Odessa, Texas: the Texas horned lizard.

One potentially endangered species was found at the Mattoon site: the Indiana bat. The number of Indiana bats in the United States has dropped by 50 percent over the past 25 years.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has determined that no threatened or endangered species have been found at Tuscola's proposed FutureGen site.

Tuscola also fared well in a study of aquatic creatures.

If Jewett, Texas, is selected, there would be a permanent loss of aquatic habitat from three streams and two manmade waterways. One endangered plant, the Navasota Ladies' tresses, (a form of orchid) can be found along some of the waterways on the Jewett site.

The study reported that some aquatic habitat would be lost from a farm pond on the Mattoon site.

The study said no aquatic habitats would be lost at either the Tuscola or Odessa, Texas, sites.

The study reported that 200 acres of corn and soybeans would be lost at either the Mattoon or Tuscola sites.

In addition, 200 acres of oaks and grassland would be lost in Jewett, and 200 acres of mesquite brush would be lost in Odessa.

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