FutureGen Alliance offers conditional support for new plan

WASHINGTON – In a carefully worded press release, the FutureGen Alliance board has offered conditional support to the U.S. Department of Energy's revised FutureGen 2.0 project.

But the alliance – a group of international coal producers and users – did not endorse the $1.2 billion project that now calls for burning coal at an old Ameren power plant in Meredosia, Ill., piping the carbon dioxide emissions within 100 miles of the power plant and burying them at an undetermined sequestration site.

The FutureGen Alliance's statement Tuesday said the group would offer its support to DOE "provided that mutual agreement on terms and conditions can be reached this fall."

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, cautioned that there is still no deal between the alliance and the DOE, which last month dictated a dramatically different FutureGen project from the one the parties had worked on for some seven years. The original FutureGen plan called for construction of a coal gasification plant near Mattoon with the carbon dioxide emissions buried directly beneath the plant.

"This is not an agreement," said Johnson spokesman Phil Bloomer. "It's clear that they haven't backed out, but it's clear that there are a lot more steps that have to be taken before they go forward."

Both Bloomer and Angela Griffin, the president of the Coles Together economic development agency in Coles County that worked to attract the original FutureGen project, wished the alliance success.

"We wish the alliance all the best," said Bloomer. "They're good people and they've done everything in good faith."

Said Griffin, "We have enjoyed our partnership with the alliance and believe our paths may cross again as we too pursue development of technologies at our site that address greenhouse gas emissions."

The terse statement from the FutureGen Alliance also said the group would take 12 months "to verify DOE's estimate cost for the project and to begin the site selection."

It said that "in the coming weeks," the alliance, DOE, state of Illinois and contractors – including Ameren – would "develop a plan for the restructured project."

No spokesman from the FutureGen Alliance was unavailable for further comment on the five-paragraph statement.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who said last month that he was aware of the FutureGen revisions being made by DOE this summer, called Tuesday's FutureGen Alliance vote a good sign.

"The vote by the FutureGen Alliance today affirmed what the Department of Energy, the state of Illinois and so many potential Illinois community partners already know – FutureGen 2.0 is an exciting opportunity to create jobs in Illinois and put our state on the cutting edge of clean coal research," he said. "In the past few weeks, the Department of Energy has communicated with more than two dozen Illinois communities interested in hosting the sequestration, research and training facilities for the FutureGen 2.0 CO2 pipeline network. The project sponsors hope to break ground as early as next year on the visitors' center, research and training facilities, moving the FutureGen 2.0 project forward with shovels in the ground."

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