Counties Vie for $1.2 Billion FutureGen Project

    By Benjamine Yount - (Illinois Statehouse News) - 12/21/10 -  The four communities in Illinois hoping for the revamped FutureGen project now know who their competition is.
    The FutureGen Alliance on Dec. 20 named Douglas, Morgan, Christian and Fayette counties as the final four communities for the underground sequestration site for the $1.2 billion project.
   FutureGen has been looking for a new site since the federal government pulled the plug on the original design that was supposed to be built in Mattoon. FutureGen has already announced it will build the project's state of the art clean-coal power plant near Meridosia in Morgan County.  FutureGen plans to spend $700 million to retro-fit an existing Ameren power plant.
   Those plans, along with Monday's announcement, have economic developers in Morgan County smiling.
   Terri Denison with the Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation said he's allowing himself some hope that Morgan County  will get lucky.
    "If we're chosen as [the underground storage site] then all $1.2 billion would be here in Morgan County," Denison said.  "Where as if one of the other communities was to be the fortunate winner, then that $1.2 billion would be split-up between a number of communities.  We're kinda going for the home run in the bottom of the ninth."
   But other communities say they've done their work and are also hoping for a payoff. Tuscola's Brian Moody has been through a selection process with FutureGen once before, and is happy to be back on the short list.
   "[This] is really what we expected. Given our previous experiences with the first FutureGen project  and all of the various technical requirements that are necessary for an adequate sequestration site — we assumed that we would have a suitable site," said Moody.
    But for Moody, and many others involved in FutureGen in Illinois, the debacle that followed the initial selection of Mattoon is still fresh in their minds.
"We try not to get our hopes up.  We try to be very realistic about any kind of major industrial site selection process…We're trying to have some guarded optimism," said Moody.
   Denison in Jacksonville is "cautiously optimistic."
    "It not only involves the federal government, but the state of Illinois also has to play a part in this to make it happen. Ameren has to see that it makes financial sense for the corporation and the share holders. … So there are a lot of hurdles to go before it's a done deal," added Denison.
    If the deal gets done, FutureGen will be worth a lot to the four communities still in the hunt. Denison is quick to point out that along with the $1.2 billion in investments, there will be close to 1,000 construction jobs and dozens of full- time jobs to come. But it's not just the number of jobs that's attractive. FutureGen will bring high-paying, white collar jobs to Morgan County, Denison said.
    In addition to Morgan County and Tuscola, Vandalia and a site in Christian County remain in the hunt for FutureGen, Monday's decision leaves the city of Quincy and Pike County out of the running.
   The FutureGen Alliance hopes to chose a final site for the carbon sequestration facility by the end of January Construction, however, is not expected to begin until late 2012.  FutureGen is not expecting power to be produced until some time in 2016.
   Story courtesy of Illinois Statehouse News.