MATTOON, Ill. - Residents celebrated when this central Illinois city was chosen yesterday as the site of a futuristic power plant that would burn coal without emitting global warming gases. Then they got to work figuring out what comes next.
The $1.8 billion plant known as FutureGen, which would store carbon dioxide deep underground, is expected to bring hundreds of jobs after it's built on several hundred acres.
Mattoon was chosen over nearby Tuscola and two Texas towns, Jewett and Penwell.
"I know this is the biggest economic development opportunity for east-central Illinois in decades, so Merry Christmas, Mattoon," said Governor Rod Blagojevich, who arrived in town after the announcement.
But hours later, the US Department of Energy warned that projected cost overruns involving the plant "require a reassessment of FutureGen's design."
The FutureGen Alliance, a consortium of 12 US and foreign energy companies, revealed the site against the advice of the DOE, which had said it was not yet ready to sign off on the plans.
"DOE believes that the public interest mandates that FutureGen deliver the greatest possible technological benefits in the most cost-efficient manner.
"This will require restructuring FutureGen to maximize the role of private sector innovation, facilitate the most productive public-private partnership, and prevent further cost escalation," James Slutz, the DOE's acting principal deputy assistant secretary, said yesterday.
Officials have said the plant is expected to be operating by 2012. They hope to begin construction by July 2009.
The alliance members - including major US coal-burning utilities American Electric Power and Southern Co., and the country's largest coal producer, Peabody Energy - have committed $400 million over 10 years.
Congress is giving the program $75 million this year, $33 million less than the Bush administration had wanted. Committees overseeing Energy Department spending expressed concern that FutureGen was siphoning money from other clean-coal programs.