Department of Energy formally ends FutureGen participation

The U.S. Energy Department finally fulfilled its word on FutureGen – by formally stating Friday that it won't help build the clean coal-burning power plant in Mattoon.

The word came to FutureGen Alliance CEO Michael Mudd in a letter from Energy Department contracting officer Keith R. Miles. It was obtained by The News-Gazette.

The letter formally closes out the two groups' cooperative agreement, which expires Sunday.

It calls for the Energy Department to sit down with the alliance, made up of 13 international power companies, to discuss sharing information the government helped pay for.

The alliance must submit financial and other reports to the Energy Department within 90 days to close out the agreement.

The Energy Department announced in January that it wanted to pull out of the deal to build one state-of-the-art plant with nearly zero emissions. It originally agreed to pay for about three-quarters of the $1.8 billion project. Instead, it wants to support smaller, commercial plants testing out the technology to turn carbon dioxide gas into a liquid and store it deep underground.

U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, issued a statement Friday before the Energy Department's letter was released.

The formal announcement is no surprise, Johnson said, but the people behind FutureGen are still working get the plant built in Mattoon. Those supporters include the coal industry, scientific and environmental communities and the "people who are fed up with our reliance on foreign energy."

Johnson said supporters always hoped the Energy Department would follow through on the project, especially because restructuring would waste so much time.

Coles Together President Angela Griffin, whose organization helped attract FutureGen to Mattoon, said the formal letter came as no surprise.

"They told us in January they were doing this," Griffin said. But she, like Johnson, said plenty of people, such as members of the FutureGen Alliance, the state, the city of Mattoon and her own company, will work with the Illinois congressional delegation to move the original project forward.

"DOE may be content to walk away empty-handed," Griffin said, "but we are unwilling to waste years of effort and an investment of $40 million toward developing technology that is badly needed to curb greenhouse gas emissions."

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