Proposed Coal-Burning Power Plant Near Chicago Nixed
By Tom Valtin
Clean energy activists breathed a hard-won sigh of relief the first week of January when Indeck Energy Services and developer CenterPoint Properties announced they were scrapping plans for a $1 billion, 660-megawatt coal-burning power plant 55 miles south of Chicago in Elwood, Illinois. The Sierra Club has been fighting the proposed plant for five years.
"My very first project when I joined the Club's Illinois Clean Air Campaign in 2002 was to investigate the Indeck plant," says Sierra Club Midwest Representative Bruce Nilles, above right. "After getting to know the fierce Verena Owen, our joint investigation uncovered that this would be a massive new source of air pollution, and we launched a multi-faceted campaign to block this project." Owen, looking none too fierce, is pictured above left with Nilles after the decision to abandon Indeck's Elwood plant was announced.
"The writing is on the wall," Owen told the suburban Chicago Daily Herald. "Indeck's decision to abandon coal comes at the same time other companies are embracing wind and solar energy here in Illinois. We are creating family-supporting clean energy jobs that don't jeopardize our children's future or accelerate global warming."
After the Illinois EPA granted Indeck an air permit for the plant in 2003, the Sierra Club turned out large numbers of local residents to speak out against the plant and urge the state to reject the project. When the state ignored this public input the Sierra Club and allied groups filed two legal appeals, persuaded the City of Chicago to file a brief in support of the legal action, and in September 2006 the U.S. EPA Appeals Board in Washington, D.C., agreed that the project did not protect downwind residents or the nearby Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and struck down Indeck's permit.
Since that time the project developers have tried to resuscitate the project, but on January 4 they finally threw in the towel. "Since there are cleaner sources of energy available, Indeck's outdated proposal would have worsened both conventional air pollution and accelerated global warming," Brian Urbaszewski of the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago told the Daily Herald. "It should have no place in Illinois' energy future."
The Sierra Club has helped defeat several coal plant proposals in Illinois since the Indeck fight commenced in 2003. "Since then we've established the National Coal Campaign and helped spur a boom in the development of wind power and other clean energy technologies," says Nilles. "But Indeck was the first battle we undertook, and it makes this victory oh so sweet."
Read more about the Sierra Club's successes in stopping the coal rush.
Photos used with permission.