Plans for a new power plant to be built on the city’s Southeast Side have area residents divided on two key issues. Put simply, the argument comes down to employment versus environment.
Plans for a new power plant to be built on the city’s Southeast Side have area residents divided on two key issues.
Put simply, the argument comes down to employment versus environment.
Advocates of the Leucadia-owned project say it will bring much-needed jobs to the area, while critics say the plant will add more pollution to a section of the city that’s already struggling with its share of environmental problems while also driving up energy costs for Illinois consumers.
“For us, the project is definitely not clean,” said Peggy Salazar, executive director of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, in a phone interview Thursday.
“The mining of the coal, the transporting of the coal, the fact that they’re going to be using water – millions of gallons daily for the process – the energy needed to pump the [carbon dioxide] they intend to sequester, none if it was … cleaner than the way we currently get our natural gas now.”
According to the project’s website, coal gasification is an alternative method of obtaining a synthetic natural gas substitute from coal and petroleum coke, a byproduct of oil refining. The power plant won’t have any smokestacks, and Leucadia plans to move 85 percent of the resulting carbon dioxide along underground pipelines to facilities outside the Chicago area.
Hoyt Hudson, a project manager from Leucadia, recently told WTTW that the byproducts from the process, which are normally released into the atmosphere as pollutants, can be used to create additional sources of energy through coal gasification.
But that argument hasn’t convinced Salazar.
“There’s still 15 percent emissions,” said Salazar. “Fifteen percent doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you emit tons of CO2 on a yearly basis it has an impact on our current environment. We already have a low quality of air because we still do have industry here.”
And there’s the price of natural gas, which is volatile at best.
Both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times have written editorials slamming the power plant. According to the Tribune, which calls the project a “gamble,” natural gas customers would be paying triple the market price if the plant were in operation today.
Also, both editorials point to the possibility that Illinois gas customers would have to foot the $3 billion bill for the new power plant to be built.
Meanwhile, other advocates, like Ald. John Pope (10th), defended the project saying it will create thousands of temporary construction jobs to build the plant, with about 200 skilled, permanent jobs within the facility.
On Tuesday, July 10 both proponents and opponents showed up at the State of Illinois building in an attempt to influence Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision on SB3766, also known as the Chicago Clean Energy project, which lays out plans for the Leucadia plant, set to be built at 115th Street and Burley Avenue.
Here's more of what South Side residents have to say about the Leucadia plant:
But, Quinn, who supported the same project last year, has since remained mum on the issue.
Instead, a spokesperson from the Governor’s office told Progress Illinois that the bill, which passed both houses in May, is currently “under review.”
Quinn has until mid-August to make a decision, or he can do nothing and allow the bill to automatically become law.