ICC holds FutureGen hearing

By Jim McCabe on March 28 at 8:37am

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People in favor of and against aspects of the FutureGen clean coal project taking place in Morgan County were in the City Council meeting room last night.

The Illinois Commerce Commission held a public hearing in the latest step of what has been so far a three-year process. The hearing was scheduled after FutureGen filed a petition for approval of a carbon dioxide transportation and sequestration plan in accordance with the Public Utility Act.

The ICC has approved the construction and operation of a 28-mile pipeline carrying liquid carbon dioxide from a retrofitted Ameren power plant in Meredosia to an underground storage site near Route 123 and Beilschmidt Road.

Chief Operation Officer Lucy Swartz expects the ICC to approve this latest petition.

“The ICC has already looked at our power purchase agreement and has found the project as a whole to be cost-effective and reasonable,” she says.

FutureGen spent much of the last year buried in paperwork, relying on positive environmental impact statements from the Department of Energy and permits from the state and federal Environmental Protection Agencies.

The DOE announced its decision to continue funding FutureGen this January, and Swartz says there are still some gates that need to be passed through in order to have the funding continue.

“There are milestones that we need to achieve and demonstrate to the Department of Energy that we have achieved these milestones so they will recognize that we have done what we need to do to make the project a success,” Swartz says.

Swartz says FutureGen has completed the engineering design work on the project and is still within the timeline it has projected to get underway. She says if the upcoming hurdles are cleared, pipeline construction could start this year.

“We’ve been working with landowners, we’ve been doing environmental surveys and construction surveys to make sure the soil is the way the soil needs to be,” Swartz says.

Those who spoke in favor of the project last night mainly focused on the jobs it would create, but two people who would have a backyard view of the project were the opposition voices. Jeff Niemann inherited the Beilschmidt farmland in northeastern Morgan County.

“It’s just that I hate to see Jacksonville get particularly hyped up and see all these jobs everybody’s talking about, I don’t see them,” he says.

His wife Betty also spoke against the project.

“It’s basically taking carbon from the power plant through a pipeline and dumping it and making Morgan County a dump site for waste product of CO2,” she says.

FutureGen plans on injecting 1.1 million metric tons of CO2 annually, translating to 22 metric tons over a 20-year project.

Comments regarding the FutureGen project can be submitted to the ICC for several more weeks.

Morgan County was originally chosen as the site for the billion-dollar project in February 2011.