Quick Hit Aaron Krager Friday January 13th, 2012, 10:00am

Illinois EPA Leaves CO2 Emissions Off Air Permit

The proposed Taylorville Energy Center in Christian County would not be required to capture its carbon dioxide emissions nor limit its overall CO2 emissions, according to a draft of an Illinois EPA air permit (PDF). As a result, the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) calls it unlawful because they believe it violates the Clean Air Act.

In the most recent draft of the air permit for the energy center, the IEPA failed to include provisions requiring the plant to utilize carbon capture and storage technology (CCS). The process isolates carbon in emissions, contains them, compresses it at about 2,000 pounds per square inch and places it deep underground. According to John Thompson, director of the coal transition project at CATF, this particular facility plans to use a saline injection pushing the emissions nearly two-miles below the earth's surface.

Taylorville Energy Center received a Department of Energy loan guarantee for up to $2.579 billion based upon the use of CSS. In 2010, it garnered a record $417 million tax credit due to investment credits aimed at reducing CO2 emission from 50 percent to 65 percent. CATF believes these awards are far too valuable not to utilize CSS technology.

"The company is still going to need to do CSS to receive the incentives from the federal government and Illinois," said Thompson. "The project sets a bad precedent for CSS permits around the nation. The importance of a pioneering project like this is to set a precedent for future projects that deploy CSS."

In November, Progress Illinois noted the coalitions on both sides of the argument. Unions and local elected officials are on board with the out of state corporate push for the project. On the other side, environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resource Defense Council teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce and ComEd to oppose the energy center. Business interests are concerned they will bare the weight of the $3.5 billion that will be added to utility bills as a result of the plant.

The project has come under scrutiny because of possible cost overruns, potential environmental impacts and the 30-year agreement to purchase energy from the plant. Critics claim the long-term contract would force higher rates onto residents and businesses by requiring electricity suppliers to buy five percent of its total output, if legislation passed the General Assembly. The bill has failed to gain enough support three previous times but passed the Senate this past fall before dying in a House committee.

"This company is seeking mandatory 30-year contracts, which means 20 and 30 years from now when Illinois has a great deal of cheaper and cleaner power built and online, the entire state will still be required to buy overpriced dirty energy from this facility regardless of the cost," said Will Reynolds, a member of Sierra Club, at the December 1 public hearing.

"It comes from looking at global warming, said Thompson in regards to CATF's support for the energy center. "We are advocates for carbon capture and storage. Without it, the world cooks. There is no way to fight global warming without it."

Thompson and others want the IEPA's air permit to include CSS in its final draft. Developers fear the strict limits would hinder their ability to operate. CATF would allow an adjustable CO2 standard in the first few years of operation to address storage uncertainties. Just last month, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management released a draft air permit containing such a provision. Without the limits it might allow the facility to abandon carbon capture.

"I heard earlier today that the equivalent of building this plant and saying that it's carbon-sequestration ready without actually requiring the carbon sequestration is the equivalent of having a garage and saying that it's Ferrari ready as though I had a Ferrari in my garage," said Suhail Baro, a student at the University of Illinois, at the public hearing.

Image: firstelectricnewspaper.com

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