What's up this week: Quinn must sign or veto power plant bill by Friday

What's up this week: Quinn must sign or veto power plant bill by Friday
Photo courtesy of Sierra Club

Gov. Pat Quinn has until Friday Aug. 10 to decide whether he’ll sign or veto a bill that would force Illinois energy consumers to pay for most of the $3 billion construction of a coal-to-natural gas power plant that could go up on the Southeast Side.

SB3766 was passed in the twilight of the spring session. It would bankroll the construction and operation of a synthetic gas plant owned by power company Leucadia, by requiring customers of two gas companies–Ameren and Nicor–to pay higher gas rates.

Ameren and Nicor entered into a 30-year contract to purchase gas from Leucadia, as part of the pending legislation.

Leucadia has promised that rates won’t go up more than 2 percent per year. But a Chicago Tribune editorial, which blasted the project, pointed out that customers would be paying three times the market value for natural gas if the plant were up and running today.

What’s more, consumers would also see their rates increase regardless of any corresponding hikes in gas prices.

Opponents are also railing against the negative environmental impacts they say the plant will have in an area that has long seen pollution from the once-thriving steel industry. Activists and environmental groups have voiced concern about carbon dioxide emissions.

In a letter to Quinn, the Sierra Club appealed to him to kill the bill, expressing concern over whether Leucadia would even adhere to the weak environmental requirements in the legislation.

“The purported carbon capture requirement for the plants is weak and limited. The legislation provides only a small penalty for non-compliance, which could easily end up being economically preferable to compliance,” the letter said.

Leucadia said it plans to move 85 percent of the carbon dioxide out of Chicago through underground pipes.

Proponents of the bill, like 10th Ward Ald. John Pope and 17th District state Sen. Donne Trotter, say the project will bring much-needed jobs to the community.

Last week, the parent company of Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas sought a rate hike from the Illinois Commerce Commission instead of agreeing to purchase gas from Leucadia. The ICC has 12 months to decide whether to OK the rate hike.

© Community Renewal Society 2012

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