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EDITORIAL: Mattoon decision on FutureGen may be hasty
[August 12, 2010]

EDITORIAL: Mattoon decision on FutureGen may be hasty

Aug 12, 2010 (Herald and Review - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- No one can blame Mattoon-area supporters of the FutureGen project for being skeptical about plans from the Department of Energy.

But community leaders may have reacted a little harshly Wednesday when they pulled out of the FutureGen 2.0 project. Mattoon's decision, however, should open a door for the Decatur area.

On Wednesday, Coles Together President Angela Griffin informed U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., that the community was no longer interested in the project. Durbin announced last week that Mattoon's involvement in the coal sequestration project had changed from hosting the entire project to housing underground storage and a training site. The power plant, under what is being called FutureGen 2.0, will be in the Western Illinois town of Meredosia.

The news was a shock to the Mattoon area, which had hoped to host the entire project and the several hundred jobs that came with it.

It was not the first time the Department of Energy and the federal government has thumbed its nose at Coles County. After winning the competition to host the FutureGen site, the project was tabled by the Bush Administration. The stated reason was increasing costs, but many suspected it was because Bush's home state of Texas had lost out in the competition.

Since then, the project has been through numerous starts and stops and delays. The latest news, that the Mattoon area would be only a part of the project, was a particularly difficult blow.

Durbin gave Mattoon a Friday deadline on the final decision. That seems rushed, and Durbin can be criticized for keeping Mattoon leaders in the dark about the change to FutureGen 2.0 for so long. But the deadline is not entirely Durbin's fault. The $1.2 billion for the project is part of the federal stimulus package, and the Department of Energy has to issue intent to spend the money by Sept. 1.

The hasty decision by Coles Together could open a door for the Decatur area. An estimated 75 jobs in the Decatur area would be beneficial to the local economy. Frankly, any job gains would be worth pursuing. The pipeline carrying the carbon emissions would have a shorter trip to Decatur and could use the already established Interstate 72 corridor. Decatur is near the same rock formations that made the Mattoon area viable as a storage site.

Although additional jobs would be the main attraction, the storing of carbon emissions deep underground is an emerging technology. It's possible that hosting the storage facility could result in research projects and other economic spin-offs that would benefit the economy.

Coles County representatives have invested a lot in the FutureGen process, and they now have little to show for it. It's understandable that they believe they haven't been treated fairly.

But it appears FutureGen 2.0 is on the way to becoming a reality. Decatur and Macon County should be willing to step in and accept even a small portion of the project.

To see more of Herald & Review, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2010, Herald and Review, Decatur, Ill. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit, e-mail, or call 866-280-5210 (outside the United States, call +1 312-222-4544).

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