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FutureGen competition attracts 6 communities

FutureGen competition attracts 6 communities

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SPRINGFIELD — The list of cities and towns looking to take what Mattoon doesn't want is growing.

With an eye on getting a significant influx of federal stimulus dollars and at least 75 jobs, officials from at least six central Illinois communities say they are considering applying to become part of the revamped FutureGen proposal.

Ken Smith, the mayor of Marshall, said his Clark County community is interested in the $125 million clean coal development project.

"We would certainly be willing to talk with the organization," Smith said.

Similarly, Taylorville Mayor Greg Brotherton said he would like to be on the list for the project.

"I think we'll put our name out there," Brotherton said.

Bloomington-Normal economic development officials also are investigating the situation.

The communities join Tuscola, Springfield and Decatur as showing interest in playing a role in the FutureGen project.

Earlier this month, federal Energy Department officials stunned Mattoon by announcing they were shifting the focus of FutureGen away from building a new coal-burning plant in Coles County.

Instead, the new version would retrofit an older power plant in Meredosia and ship the carbon via pipeline to be stored in the ground beneath Mattoon.

Mattoon officials, faced with being a storage facility rather than the home to a futuristic power generating facility, said they were no longer interested in the project.

Key for any city looking to take on the storage duties is the geography of the area. Mattoon was chosen because of its location over underground formations that allow for large amounts of carbon to be injected deep below ground.

Marshall was among those initially vying for the first version of FutureGen. Smith said he wants to find out more about the project but is aware of the controversy the changes caused in Mattoon.

"I think that was a bad deal for Mattoon," Smith said.

Brotherton said he thinks the FutureGen carbon storage ideas might be able to be rolled into another clean coal project being developed by Tenaska in his Christian County community.

"Maybe it could be combined with Tenaska," Brotherton said. "If there is a safe way to do this, we'd be interested."

The Department of Energy is expected to release guidelines for cities interested in finding out more about the proposal. The agency wants to have the plan in place by September in order to use federal stimulus dollars to pay for the project.

"The department is exploring several options for developing an alternative sequestration site. More details will follow over the next few weeks," Energy spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller said.

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