Illinois and coal

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Chicago Clean Power Coalition Takes on Coal-Fired Plants

Coal production is a major part of the Illinois economy. Total Illinois coal output was 47.2 million tons in 2012, up from 37.8 million tons in 2011, making Illinois the fifth largest coal producing state in the U.S.[1] (In 2004, the state produced over 31 million short tons of coal worth an estimated $819 million dollars, which ranked it 9th in the nation in coal production.)[2]

Coal deposits underly 37,000 square miles of Illinois, about two thirds the entire state. Recoverable coal reserves are estimated to total 30 billion tons, accounting for almost one-eighth of the nation's total coal reserves and one-fourth of bituminous coal reserves.[3] In comparison to western coal, Illinois coal is high in sulfur, and even when cleaned the sulfur content averages 2 to 3 percent by weight.[4]

The state consumed over 54 million short tons of coal for electrical power in 2004,[2] producing approximately 48 percent of the electricity generated in Illinois. The state's average retail price of electricity is 7.07 cents per kilowatt hour, the 20th lowest rate in the nation[5] In 2003, Illinois emitted 230 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, ranking it 7th in the nation overall.[6]


Citizen activism

In a major survey article for the Illinois Times on the coal fight in the state, Peter Downs wrote:[7]

All across Illinois — at town-hall meetings, in federal courts, in the Capitol — battles are raging over coal power, the outcome of which could very well determine the role of the black rock in the nation’s energy future.
Illinois is at the heart of the national debate because in no other state have coal interests pushed for more new investment — with critical support from the state’s governmental leaders.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Electric Technology Laboratory, a year ago Illinois had proposals for more new coal-based electric-power plants — 16 — than any other state, and the plants proposed for Illinois would have the capacity to generate twice as much electricity as even the most ambitious proposals for any other state.
According to the report, “Coal’s Resurgence in Electric Power Generation,” which was issued on May 1, 2007, more than 10 percent of all new generating capacity from coal-based power plants would be built in Illinois. With 22 coal-burning power plants already providing 49 percent of Illinois’ electricity, the state was unusually reliant on coal for its energy needs. Keep in mind that in the previous seven years, only 10 coal-based power plants had been constructed in all of the United States.
A year after the Department of Energy’s announcement, the Sierra Club has claimed “victory” against all but five of the previously proposed plants, but those remaining five are among the biggest of the proposed projects and they would add substantially to the state’s capacity to generate electricity and air pollution.
“We started our coal campaign in Illinois because more [coal-based power] plants were proposed in Illinois than anywhere else,” says Becki Clayborn, regional representative of the Sierra Club.

Citizen groups and EPA to file suit against Midwest Generation

Chicago Clean Power Ordinance Press Conference

In July 2009, five groups of environmental and public health advocates announced their intent to file a Clean Air Act lawsuit against Midwest Generation, a subsidiary of Edison International. The groups say Midwest's six Illinois power plants are decades old and do not have the appropriate pollution controls according to EPA standards. Specifically, the lawsuit will focus on opacity violations, a measurement of the light blocked by particulate matter from smokestacks at Midwest's Crawford, Fisk, Joliet, Powerton, Waukegan, and Will County stations.

The concerned groups include Citizens Against Ruining the Environment, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, and Sierra Club. The six power plants in question are located in working class and minority neighborhoods, raising concerns about environmental justice. The groups expect to file suit in 60 days, unless Midwest Generation comes into compliance or stops operating, or unless the EPA takes other measures.[8] Shannon Fisk, an attorney for NRDC, described Midwest's Fisk and Crawford plants as, "two dinosaurs in the middle of a large city. They should have cleaned up decades ago. Running those plants is inexpensive for the company, but it's very expensive for public health."[9] A 2001 study by a professor at the Harvard University School of Public Health found that particulate matter from the Fisk and Crawford plants contributes to 41 deaths, 550 emergency room visits, and 2800 asthma attacks each year.[10]

In 2006, Midwest made an agreement with the state of Illinois to reduce emissions at its coal plants. The company has installed mercury controls, but has not decided whether to install scrubbers or shut the plants down. The company has until 2015 to install scrubbers at its Fisk plant and until 2018 at its Crawford plant.[9]

April 2, 2010: Protests Against Chase Bank and MTR

Chase Bank Die In - RAN Chicago

On April 2, 2010, 30-40 activists affiliated with the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) entered Chase Tower in downtown Chicago and engaged in a "die-in" on the first floor where bank tellers conduct business as a message to JPMorgan Chase to end their investments in mountaintop removal (MTR) projects. While individuals were on the floor, activist Adam Gaya spoke about Chase's support for MTR, until security at the bank had police entering to remove the protesters. According to RAN, Chase has tried to downplay their investment in mountaintop removal projects. Activists in the RAN network have "received emails from James Fuschetti, Managing Director of the Office of Environmental Affairs at JPMC, who claims that JPMorgan's "financing in this industry [coal and MTR] are quite small," including JPMorgan Chase's relationship with Massey Energy, the largest mountaintop removal mining company in the United States."[11]

Chicago Clean Power Ordinance

On April 13, 2010, Alderman Joe Moore and others announced the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, utilizing Chicago's Home Rule authority to demand Midwest Generation drastically reduce emissions or shut down the Fisk and Crawford coal fired power plants (see video).

The Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) has been leading "toxic tours" for researchers, journalists, politicians and city officials since 2003. LVEJO notes of the plants: "According to a report compiled by the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, Chicago ranks second among all cities in the country adversely affected by power plant pollution, leading to 855 premature deaths, 848 hospitalizations, 1,519 heart attacks and 23,650 asthma attacks. The report also states that according to EPA officials, fine particle pollution from power plants shortens the lives of 1,356 Illinoisans every year, citing Crawford and Fisk as two main pollutants."[12]

Crawford, Fisk, and Environmental Justice

Nurse Kimberly Harrington on the health effects of the plants

Edison International's Crawford Generating Station and Fisk Generating Station are located on the lower west side of Chicago, in the predominantly Latino areas of Pilsen and Little Village, as well as nearby neighborhoods with a significant population of African Americans, raising issues around environmental justice and coal. Within a 3-mile radius of the Crawford Plant live 373,690 residents, 83.9% of which are non-white with a per-capita income of $11,097. The plant does not have an emissions scrubber. Within miles of each plant are homes, parks, schools, etc. Crawford and Fisk are among over 100 coal plants near residential areas.[13]

A 2001 Harvard study estimated that emissions from the two plants cause 41 premature deaths and 550 emergency room visits annually for ailments like asthma, heart disease, and cancer. In Fall 2010, the Environmental Law Policy Center (ELPC) estimated Fisk and Crawford caused $127 million annually in poorer health.[14]

October 10, 2010: Chicago Clean Power Coalition

On October 10, 2010, Greenpeace and the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO) organized the Chicago Clean Power Coalition rally at Alivio Medical Center, on West 21st Street. The rally focused on the health and environmental risks of carbon dioxide emissions released by Chicago’s two coal-fired power plants, Midwest Generation's Fisk Generating Station in Pilsen and Crawford Generating Station in Little Village. The coalition also included the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, the Sierra Club, and other organizations. The group is supporting a clean air ordinance that would effectively shut the plants.[15]

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) introduced the ordinance in April calling for a drastic reduction of emissions and particulate matter released by the coal plants. It calls for reducing particulate matter (soot) by 90 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent. The coalition said this is the equivalent of taking 625,000 cars off the road. Ald. Richard Muñoz, (22nd) cosponsored the ordinance in August, and now the coalition is pressuring Ald. Danny Solis (25th) to cosponsor. Stephen Stults, a legislative assistant to Solis, said Solis has not yet decided whether to cosponsor the ordinance. Solis has received donations form Midwest Generation: Edison International, the parent company, has given him approximately $49,000 since 1999, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections website. Susan Olavarria, Edison International’s director of governmental affairs and communications, said the company does donate money to politicians, but it is “peanuts” compared to what the company does and what it gives to nonprofit and local organizations. She said the company sponsors Friends of the Chicago River and its employees do neighborhood volunteer work.[15]

PERRO formed after the Harvard School of Public Health published a study in September 2001 examining the health of Illinois residents living near fossil fuel burning power plants. The study says toxic emissions from the Fisk and Crawford power plants contribute to Chicago’s annual 2,800 asthma attacks, 550 emergency room visits and 41 premature deaths.[15]

May 2011: Activists stop coal barge, climb on coal plant

I Can't Sit By: Stopping Coal in Chicago

On May 24, 2011, Greenpeace activists stopped a coal barge from the Pulaski Bridge, displaying a banner on the river bridge that said “We can stop coal” and “Nosotros podemos parar el carbόn.” Dangling above the water, the presence of the activists prevented three coal barges from passing, according to the activsts. From the bridge, the activists proclaimed to Edison International that people have the right to choose clean energy for their communities. They demanded that Edison International shut down the Fisk and Crawford plants. In spring 2011, the Chicago City Council failed to vote on the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, which would have forced the plants to clean up or shut down.[16]

In a separate action the same day, Greenpeace activists climbed the smokestack of the Fisk Generating Station and unfurled yellow banners with "Quit Coal" printed on them. After several hours atop the structure, several of the climbers rappelled down the smokestack and painted the same words on it. The eight activists were arrested and released on bail on May 26, and are scheduled to appear in court on July 1, 2011. They are charged with felony criminal damage to property.[17]

August 2011: Citizens call for coal ash regulation

On August 31, Joliet residents protested outside Rep. Kinzinger office. The protest was in response to recent reports finding that pollution was found in groundwater at all 22 coal ash ponds evaluated by the Illinois EPA. Still, 11 Illinois congressmen are pushing to block the U.S. EPA from cleaning up coal ash in the state, among them Rep. Adam Kinzinger. Protestors called on the Illinois EPA to protect citizens from the groundwater contamination emanating from the Lincoln Stone Quarry, where coal ash has been disposed for over a decade. Joliet residents contend that that Illinois EPA has known about groundwater pollution at this site for more than 12 years and has done nothing to stop the disposal of coal ash that is causing this contamination. Following the rally, the group marched into Rep. Kinzinger’s office and asked that he withdraw his support of legislation (H.R. 2273) that would strip the EPA of authority to regulate coal ash and prevent EPA from phasing out the use of dangerous coal ash ponds.[18]

September 2011: Rally for Chicago Clean Power Ordinance

On Sep. 20, 2011, nearly one hundred supporters of the Chicago Clean Power Coalition hand delivered a petition with over 5,000 signatures to Mayor Emanuel’s office asking him to pass the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance. The Clean Power Coalition has been working to pass the Clean Power Ordinance to reduce particle matter and greenhouse gas pollution from the Fisk and Crawford coal plants, and is backed by a citywide grassroots coalition of over 60 community, health, labor and environmental groups.

Aldermen Danny Solis (20th Ward) and Joe Moore (49th Ward) announced in July 2011 that 31 City Council members had signed on as co-sponsors of the Chicago Clean Power ordinance. Only 26 votes are needed for the ordinance to become law. During the re-introduction of the ordinance, Mayor Rahm Emanuel indicated strong support for the goals of the ordinance, stating that ““We are paying a health care cost as a city because of the plants. I want [Midwest Generation] as a company to be a responsible citizen to the people of the city of Chicago.”[19]


Financial and health effects of Chicago coal plants

Champaign Toxic Tour 1

On October 20, 2010, the Environmental Law and Policy Center released a study, ELPC Report Finds Chicago Coal Plants Caused Up To $1 Billion in Health Damages Since 2002 estimating Midwest Generation's Crawford and Fisk coal plants in Pilsen and Little Village may have caused between $750 million and $1 billion in public health related damages since 2002. The plants operate on equipment built between 1958 and 1961 and skirt Federal Clean Air Act regulations since they were built before 1976. The report uses data culled from various sources such as a 2010 National Research Council study and the Harvard School of Public Health’s Illinois Power Plant Study.[20]

According to the study, the plants cause more than $127 million in 2010 dollars in health damages yearly, based on 2005 emissions. Particulate matter released into the air causes cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, heart attacks, premature death and more. A spokeswoman for Midwest Generation told WBEZ that there is no tie between the plants and public health, putting the blame on traffic instead. The ELPC supports the Chicago Clean Power ordinance, which would require Midwest Generation to reduce PM pollution within 4 years. Howard Learner, executive director for the ELPC, said via press release “Soot and smog from Chicago coal plants is making us sick and costing us millions. Cleaning them up is the right thing to do for our health, our environment and our economy.”[20]

Environmental justice

The 2011 report, "Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People in Illinois" by Adrian Wilson, NAACP, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), and the Indigenous Environmental Network used an algorithm combining levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions together with demographic factors in order to calculate an environmental justice score for the 431 coal-fired power plants in the U.S.. The report found that 90 plants have a significantly disproportionate impact on people of color and low-income people, with 4.7 million people living within 3 miles of the 90 plants, with an average per capita income of $17,600 (25% lower than state average), and over half (52.5%) people of color. The highest in any state was Illinois, with 12 highly polluting plants in populous areas disproportionately populated by low-income and people of color:

  1. Crawford Generating Station, Chicago, Cook County
  2. Fisk Generating Station, Chicago, Cook
  3. Waukegan Generating Station, Waukegan, Lake County
  4. Joliet 9 Generating Station and Joliet 29 Generating Station, Joliet, Will County
  5. Dallman Station/Lakeside Station, Springfield, Sangamon County
  6. Powerton Generating Station, Pekin, Tazewell County
  7. Baldwin Energy Station, Baldwin, Randolph County
  8. Wood River Station, Alton, Madison County
  9. Will County Generating Station, Romeoville, Will County
  10. E.D. Edwards Plant, Bartonville, Peoria County
  11. Archer Daniels Midland Decatur Power Plant, Decatur, Macon County
  12. Hennepin Power Station, Hennepin, Putnam County

Mercury and Fish

The 2006 Illinois PIRG report, "Risky Fishing: Power Plant Mercury Pollution and Illinois Sport Fish" looks at tissue mercury concentrations of 804 fish samples from the Illinois Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program (IFCMP) and 23 fish samples from U.S. EPA’s National Lake Fish Tissue Study (NLFTS). The report found that 39% of Illinois fish samples exceeded the 0.13 ppm safe mercury limit for women of average weight who eat fish twice per week, while 59% of the fish samples exceeded the safe mercury limit for children of average weight under age three who eat fish twice a week; 50 percent of fish samples exceeded the safe limit for children ages three to five years; and 34 percent of samples exceeded the safe limit for children ages six to eight years.

A third of all mercury released in Illinois - 2,283 pounds - came from six grandfathered plants owned by Midwest Generation, according to 2002 state EPA data.[21] In 2006, the company made an agreement with the state to begin lowering mercury emissions.[22]

EPA releases list of 44 "high hazard" coal ash dumps

In response to demands from environmentalists as well as Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California), chair of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, the EPA made public a list of 44 "high hazard potential" coal waste dumps. The rating applies to sites at which a dam failure would most likely cause loss of human life, but does not include an assessment of the likelihood of such an event. Illinois has two of the sites, one for Havana Power Station and one for Wood River Station, both of which are owned by Dynegy Midwest Generation.[23][24] To see the full list of sites, see Coal waste.

Legislative issues

SB 1987: Clean Coal Portfolio Standard Act

In July 2008, the Illinois House passed SB 1987, also known as the Clean Coal Portfolio Standard Act, which creates a framework for the development of coal gasification projects with carbon capture and storage, including Taylorville Energy Center. To qualify as a clean coal facility under the new legislation, a plant must capture at least 50 percent of its total CO2 emissions, as well as limit regulated pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulates and mercury, to levels that are no higher than those of natural gas-fired plants.[25] if passed by the state Senate would require Tenaska to conduct a detailed cost study projected to cost between $10 and $18 million. On January 12, 2009, SB 1987 was signed into law.

SB 1987 guarantees one initial clean coal facility with a final air permit to 30-year purchase agreements for the sale of its electrical output. Following the enactment of the legislation, Tenaska announced that Taylorville Energy Center, which has its final air permit from the Illinois EPA, will be that "initial clean coal facility." Current estimates of construction costs are approximately $2.5 billion, and expected completion is 2014.[25]

April 2010: Clean Power ordinance introduced

On April 13, 2010, Chicago lawmakers proposed new air regulations, the Chicago Clean Power ordinance, to curb emissions from the city's two coal-burning power plants, Fisk and Crawford. The plants, both set in heavily populated South Side neighborhoods, have long have been among the city's worst polluters, emitting more than 14,300 tons of soot and other air pollutants each year, and nearly 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2007. The ordinance would require the Fisk and Crawford plants to cut particulate emissions by 90 percent from existing levels by retrofitting the plants with pollution controls, such as scrubbers, and lower greenhouse gas emissions.[26]

The ordinance establishes that if a plant installation has a quarterly emissions average that exceeds the federal and state limits, the owner will be fined up to $10,000 and will have to suspend its operations until pollution controls are installed to ensure it complies with the standards.

The measure gained support from a majority of the City Council but was denied a formal committee hearing until April 2011, when a vote was deferred. The measure was returned to the Council's agenda in July 2011 on the initiative of Aldermen Daniel Solis and Joe Moore, but no date has been set for a vote on it.[27]

Proposed coal gasification projects

On June 1, 2011, legislation needed for three multibillion-dollar coal gasification projects to move forward in Illinois - FutureGen 2.0, Power Holdings Company plant and the Leucadia Illinois Plant proposed for an abandoned steel site along the Calumet River - arrived at Governor Pat Quinn's desk after winning final approval in the General Assembly the night before. Tenaska's $3.5 billion Taylorville Energy Center in Christian County lacked enough votes in the House of Representatives, and they decided to delay a vote until the Legislature's fall 2011 veto session. The Legislature recessed its spring session just before midnight on May 31.

Quinn must decide whether to sign or veto S.B. 2062, S.B. 1533 and S.B. 2169, relating to FutureGen 2.0, Leucadia and Power Holdings, respectively. The FutureGen bill addresses the legal liability issue of storing CO2 underground in Morgan County as part of the $1.2 billion near-zero emissions project at Ameren Illinois' Meredosia Power Station also located in the county.

The Leucadia and Power Holdings bills allow for the companies to construct synthetic gas plants on Chicago's South Side and in southern Illinois, respectively. Leucadia's plant would cost about $3 billion, Power Holdings about $2 billion. Together, the plants would create a market for more than 4 million short tons of high-sulfur coal annually.

Quinn, a Democrat, vetoed previous Leucadia and Power Holdings bills in March 2011, citing "inadequate consumer protections" (PCT 4/15). Since then, the companies have worked with the governor's office in an effort to get the plants passed. Phil Gonet, president of the Illinois Coal Association, said: "I would be shocked if Quinn does not approve these. I think they're ready to hit the ground running."[28]

In July 2011, Gov. Quinn signed legislation that paved the way for the Power Holdings Company plant and the Leucadia Illinois Plant.[29] Leucadia has yet to obtain permission to add pollution to the crowded industrial area in Chicago, and has not located a buyer for its carbon dioxide emissions.[30]

Proposed coal plants



Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle

Experimental CCS

Under Construction


Abandoned, Canceled, or on Hold

Citizen groups

Coal lobbying groups

Power companies

  • Exelon
    • Headquarters in Chicago, IL
    • 7th biggest coal energy producer in U.S.
    • Controls 21 coal-fired generating stations with 9416 MW total capacity
  • Edison International
    • Owner of Midwest Generation
    • Headquarters in Rosemead, California (Los Angeles area)
    • Controls 23 coal-fired generating stations in 2005, with 11,071 MW of capacity
  • Integrys
    • Headquarters in Chicago, IL
    • Controls 15 coal-fired generating stations with 1070 MW total capacity
    • Active proposals: Weston Unit 4
  • Archer Daniels Midland
    • Headquarters in Decatur, IL
    • Controls 27 coal-fired generating stations with 661 MW total capacity
  • City Water, Light and Power
    • Headquarters in Springfield, IL
    • Controls 6 coal-fired generating stations with 485 MW total capacity
    • Active proposals: Dallman Unit 4
  • Ameren
  • Dominion
  • Dynegy / LS Power
  • Trigen-Cinergy, owned by Duke Energy and Veolia

Existing coal plants

Illinois is 5th in the nation in coal power generation, with 83 operating coal-fired units at 33 locations totaling 17,565 megawatts (MW).[31]

34 of these units are larger than 500MW:[32][33]

For a map of existing coal plants in the state, see the bottom of this page.

Proposed coal unit closures

Vermillion to close in first quarter 2011

On Dec. 28, 2010, Dynegy announced that it plans to mothball its Vermilion Power Station in Illinois in the first quarter of 2011. Factors influencing the company’s decision, according to a news release from Dynegy, include the relatively small size of the facility, older technologies and coal delivery challenges that lead to high production costs, as well as weak electricity demand, low prices for power and uncertainties over future regulation. Vermilion’s coal is transported from western states by rail to Danville and then trucked to the Vermilion site. This is the most significant factor leading to Vermilion’s higher production costs, according to the news release.[34]

University of Illinois

In May 2010, the University of Illinois pledged to stop using coal within seven years as part of a plan to reduce energy use and cut carbon emissions: the Illinois Climate Action Plan, finalized that month. The plan was developed by the campus Sustainability Council. It was submitted to the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, signed by more than 600 schools. The UI is the first Big Ten school to formally submit a climate plan.[35]

To meet its goals, UI is considering alternative fuels that could be used by University of Illinois Abbott Power Plant or another central generation facility, officials said. University buildings – which account for 85 percent of the campus's energy use – are primarily heated by steam produced at Abbott. The plant also produces electricity as a byproduct, with the UI buying additional electricity from private suppliers. Abbott runs primarily on natural gas and coal, with the fuel mix decided by market costs, according to UI officials. The sustainability team concluded that Abbott's natural gas capacity can provide almost enough steam to meet campus demand by itself and should be able to do so in a few years if conservation trends continue. The campus burned 94,171 tons of coal in fiscal 2009, although that figure has dropped 30 percent in fiscal 2010 so far, said Tom Abram, sustainability coordinator in UI Facilities and Services.[35]

Midwest Generation's Will County and Waukegan Stations

As part of a 2006 agreement with the state of Illinois, Midwest Generation said it plans to shut down the three smallest generating units in its fleet -- two units at the Will County Generating Station in Romeoville and one at its Waukegan Generating Station -- between the end of 2007 and the end of 2010. The company also has committed that its smallest plant -- the single-unit Fisk Generating Station in Chicago -- will either have additional controls for sulfur dioxide emissions or be shut down by the end of 2015. The same agreement to shut down or install additional controls applies to the Waukegan Generating Station by the end of 2014 and to the Crawford Generating Station in Chicago by the end of 2018.[36]

Midwest Generation may delay pollution upgrades

In late 2010, Midwest secured state permits to install pollution-control equipment that would reduce soot- and smog-forming emissions from its six coal-fired power plants. In recently filed documents discovered in February 2011, however, Midwest Generation signaled it might delay installing pollution controls at its plants "for the maximum time available." The documents, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, said whether the company actually makes the $1.2 billion investment depends in part on "regulatory and legislative developments," according to its latest financial documents. The documents conveyed a starkly different message from public statements by Midwest Generation executives, who have pledged to make "meaningful improvements in the environmental performance of our plants."[37]

Doug McFarlan, a company spokesman, said Midwest Generation still is committed to an agreement with state regulators that calls for each of its plants to be cleaned up or shut down by 2018. The company is holding off on firm decisions until the federal EPA completes work on various anti-pollution regulations, he said.[37]

The company's six coal plants — in Chicago's Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods, Joliet, Romeoville, Waukegan and downstate Pekin — are among the region's biggest sources of smog- and soot-forming sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. They also are some of the top sources of toxic mercury that contaminates fish in the Great Lakes and other waterways.[37]

Midwest Generation's Fisk and Crawford stations

In a deal announced on February 29, 2012, after a multi-year campaign by community groups, Midwest Generation said it will close its Fisk Generating Station in the Pilsen neighborhood by December 2012 and the Crawford Generating Station in Little Village by the end of 2014.[38]

Coal Waste

According to the Illinois EPA, Illinois has 24 power plants that have a total of 83 coal ash impoundments and one permitted landfill where coal ash is being disposed. Of those 83, 68 are active, 31 are lined, and 28 have groundwater monitoring.[39]

A 2011 report by Prairie Rivers and the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), "Illinois at Risk: Lax safeguards and no enforcement endanger the water, air & lives of residents near coal ash dumps" found that Illinois has the second highest number of contaminated coal ash dump sites in the United States. The report evaluates data from groundwater sampling conducted by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) at coal ash disposal sites in 2010. IEPA found exceedances of health standards for coal ash contaminants in groundwater at all 22 sites evaluated. Prairie Rivers and IEP said two-thirds of the impoundments don't have groundwater monitoring and don't have liners, which keep contaminants from leaching out of the impoundments. And dams holding the impoundments at most of the 83 sites have no permits and have not been inspected for safety or stability by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.[40]

The report focuses on the specific problems at 10 of the 22 coal waste sites: the Vermilion Power Station, the Joliet 9 Generating Station and Joliet 29 Generating Station, the now retired Ameren Energy Venice Power Station in Madison and St. Clair counties, coal ash generated by the Bunge dry corn mill in Vermilion County, the Hutsonville Power Station, the Crown 3 Mine, the Industry Mine, the Gateway Mine, and the coal mine reclamation Murdock site by Alpena Vision Resources in Douglas County.[40]

Prairie Rivers and the EIP said the U.S. EPA should implement comprehensive coal ash regulations that would regulate coal ash as a special waste with federal standards that all states would have to follow, like requiring liners at disposal sites, covers, monitoring, cleanup standards and the phase out of ash ponds. According to the IEPA's ash impoundment strategy progress report in February 2010, the agency now requires new ash ponds to have liners, and the agency supports the U.S. EPA's initiative for stricter controls on coal ash.[39]

The 2011 report, "State of Failure: How
 Ash" by Earthjustice and Appalachian Mountain Advocates, looked at EPA data and found that state regulations are often inadequate for protecting public health. The report noted that Illinois ranked first in the number of coal ash ponds with 83, yet only about a third of the ponds are lined or monitored.

June 2010: Corps wants to use coal ash for levee construction in IL

In June 2010, environmental groups began lining up to protest U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to use coal ash to fortify flood-protection levees on both sides of the Mississippi River between Alton and Gale, in Illinois' southern tip. Coal ash, also known as fly ash, is the residue from coal combustion at power plants. It contains many types of toxins such as arsenic and mercury, and it has been closely linked to cancer, according to a wide range of studies. President of the American Bottoms Conservancy Kathy Andria said coal ash is highly unstable and degrades in the presence of water, making it a bad choice for levee construction. The corps, however, takes a different view regarding coal ash, highlighting its uses - such as road construction and cement manufacture - within a recent environmental assessment.[41]

The corps' plans for using coal ash occur against a backdrop of debate among federal agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, on the safety of coal ash. In May 2010, the EPA proposed the first-ever federal rules on coal ash disposal and management. At about the same time, the corps issued an environmental assessment of its plans to repair levees in Missouri and Illinois over the 200-mile stretch of river between Alton and Gale. The assessment mentions four options, but recommended the use of the lime-fly ash mixture because it would achieve the same "level of repair integrity as any of the other alternatives but with less construction cost and adverse environmental impacts." The Corps often chooses the most cost-effective option. The same report also minimized the environmental impact of injecting coal ash into the levees to solidify the highly plastic clay, stating: "Because of the chemical reaction that takes place with lime, fly ash, and water, trace heavy metals are locked into the cement matrix, no longer able to leach into the ground." According to the assessment's authors, the use of fly ash on federally funded projects is "encouraged by their classification as a 'recovered' product under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act."[41]

Both sides of the controversy will be aired when the corps holds a public hearing on the issue at 10 a.m. July 15 at the Robert Young Building in downtown St. Louis. During the forum, the corps will discuss its plans to inject a lime-fly coal slurry into the levees to prevent the "slumps" and "slides" that tear down levee embankments, said Alan Dooley, a spokesman for the corps' district office in St. Louis.[41]

August 2010: Coal Ash Waste and Water Contamination

In August 2010 a study released by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice reported that Illinois, along with 34 states, had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash that was not recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report, in an attempt to pressure the EPA to regulate coal ash, noted that most states do not monitor drinking water contamination levels near waste disposal sites.[42] The report mentioned Illinois' Joliet 9 Generating Station, Marion Plant and Venice Power Station were three sites that have groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.[43]

February 2011: Study finds dangerous level of hexavalent chromium at Illinois coal waste site

A report released by EarthJustice and the Sierra Club in early February 2011 stated that there are many health threats associated with a toxic cancer-causing chemical found in coal ash waste called hexavalent chromium. The report specifically cited 29 sites in 17 states where the contamination was found. The information was gathered from existing EPA data on coal ash and included locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virgina and Wisconsin. In Illinois, the Rocky Acres/Grays Siding Coal Combustion Waste Landfill in Sullivan was reported as having high levels of chromium seeping into drinking water supplies. Hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) was reported at the site above 100 ppb (parts per billion) - 5,000 times the proposed California drinking water goals and above the federal drinking water standard.[44]

According to the report, the electric power industry is the leading source of chromium and chromium compounds released into the environment, representing 24 percent of releases by all industries in 2009.[44]

Hexavalent chromium first made headlines after Erin Brockovich sued Pacific Gas & Electric because of poisoned drinking water from hexavalent chromium. Now new information indicates that the chemical has readily leaked from coal ash sites across the U.S. This is likely the tip of the iceberg because most coal ash dump sites are not adequately monitored.[45]

Coal mines

Click here for a list of coal mines in Illinois.
Click here for a list of proposed coal mines. As of August 2011, there are 11 permit applications for new or expanded coal mining in Illinois.[46]

As of 2010 there were approximately 22 active coal mines in Illinois with production of approximately 33,241 short tons per year.[47]

Major coal mines

Longwall mining in Illinois

Sinking the Heartland

Mining companies are buying up land in Illinois from struggling farmers for longwall mining. In Litchfield, IL, Cline Mining Corp. began buying land, prepping the ground for mining but leaving it unusable. Removing the slabs after mining can lead to sinking on the surface, with some land sinking down 15 feet, causing damage to roads and formations of creeks in what was once profitable farmland. Yet as of 2010 Cline Mining continues to buy land from struggling farmers and its mining efforts are expanding, with new mines starting closer to Hillsboro. Many townspeople begrudgingly support the business: since jobs are increasingly hard to find, the development of longwall mining in the area promises some jobs, despite the cost for others. While the more traditional practice of room-and-pillar mining could be used in the area instead, the practice takes considerably longer to set up and execute, and cannot extract as much coal.[48]

Annual coal production

Illinois annual coal production in tons 2000-2010:[49]

  • 2000: 33.541 million
  • 2001: 33.793 million
  • 2002: 33.445 million
  • 2003: 31.135 million
  • 2004: 32.279 million
  • 2005: 31.939 million
  • 2006: 32.962 million
  • 2007: 32.406 million
  • 2008: 32.893 million
  • 2009: 33.746 million
  • 2010: 33.400 million (estimated)

Last mine in Vermilion County closes

In March 2009, Peabody Energy told 160 miners that the Vermilion Grove Coal Mine, which was the last mine active in Vermilion County, was slated to close. The mine was shut down because it had exhausted its coal reserves. Peabody said it would offer the miners work at other company mines in the Midwest.[50]

Mining Expansion

Wildcat Hills Complex

In late November 2009, Peabody Energy's Arclar Coal Company received two permits, one for water quality certification and one for discharge, allowing mining to expand on 668 acres at the Wildcat Hills Complex in southern Illinois. Two hearings - one for each permit - were held on Sept. 29 and Oct. 14, 2009, and environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Prairie Rivers Network, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center raised objections to the expansion. However, the Illinois Environmental Protection agency approved the permits.[51]

Deer Run, Sugar Camp, and Lively Grove

Three new mines—Deer Run Mine, the Sugar Camp Mine in Franklin County, and the Lively Grove Mine in Washington County — are projected to add 20 million tons of production to 2010’s estimate of 34 million. State agencies also report a significant increase in requests for mine construction permits. If the three new mines are approved, 2011 state production would be the highest since 1990. With the exception of the Lively Grove Mine, which will supply coal to a Peabody Energy power plant, the additional coal will go out of state, said president of the Illinois Coal Association Phil Gonet. Deer Run and Sugar Camp are being pursued by Chris Cline of the Cline Group. Becky Clayborn of the Illinois Sierra Club said he believes the real target of U.S. coal companies is exporting overseas.[52]

In April 2011, the Cline Group began digging at the Deer Run Mine, despite a 2-year-old appeal of its operating permit. The appeal was filed by a group of landowners called Citizens Against Longwall Mining in early 2009, who contend the longwall mining method to be used at Deer Run will hurt farmland values, filing the appeal after the Illinois Department of Natural Resources approved an operating permit for Deer Run mine.[53]

TVA and other plant conversions could boost demand for Illinois coal

On April 14, 2011, TVA agreed to phase out 18 units of its coal plants, adding up to 2,700 MW, and to install modern pollution controls on three dozen additional units.[54] After the announcement, it was reported that the closure or conversion of TVA plants would reduce as much as 13 million tons of demand from domestic markets, but the addition of scrubbers could boost demand for coal from the Illinois Basin, which is high-sulfur coal with lower transportation costs than the Powder River Basin. TVA is a major buyer of US coal, accounting for 36 million tons over a 12-month period, and its coal plants reach into multiple supply basins. Four plants that will be reviewed for environmental upgrades -- Colbert, Gallatin, Shawnee and Allen -- all burn a combination of coal from Wyoming, Colorado and Utah, and all the plants have burned Illinois Basin coal in the past. A fifth plant, Paradise, burns about 6.5 million short tons of coal from the Illinois Basin and must upgrade its flue gas desulfurization systems.[55]

Coal mine safety

In June 2011, 41-year old John Matthew Brower was indicted by a federal Grand Jury for making false statements to the Mine Safety and Health Administration in January and April of 2010 regarding the certification of mine emergency evacuation training and drills required by federal law. If convicted, Brower faces up to five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000. A jury trial has been slated for August 22, 2011, in the Benton federal courthouse.[56]

Coal exports

Illinois exported a record 13 million tons of coal in 2012, a five-fold increase from 2.5 million tons in 2010, according to a report conducted for the Illinois Office of Coal Development. Governor Quinn has a five-year-plan to double exports by 2014.[57]

Coal export terminals

Peabody Coal exports to Europe

On July 17, 2012, Peabody Energy announced that, under new agreements with Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, it would gain additional coal export capacity from Kinder Morgan's Deepwater Terminal and Houston Bulk Terminal in Texas, as well as increased access to the International Marine Terminal at Myrtle Grove, Louisiana, south of New Orleans.

The planned expansion would more than double Peabody's export capacity along the Gulf Coast to between 5 million and 7 million tons annually between 2014 and 2020. In 2011, Peabody shipped 6.6 million tons of coal through export terminals on the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts, and it has projected total exports of 10 million tons for 2012. Much of the coal being shipped from Texas and Louisiana will serve Peabody's European markets.

The company expects to begin shipping Colorado and Powder River Basin coal through the Houston terminal in 2014. Shipments of Colorado and Powder River Basin coal from Louisiana will begin around the same time, and Peabody will extend contracts at the Cora River terminal in Illinois to facilitate shipments of Illinois Basin coal for domestic and international markets.[58]

Chicago Climate Adaptation Plan

In May 2011, Chicago said it would begin adapting to prepare the city for a wetter, steamier future, as climate scientists have told city planners that based on current trends, Chicago will feel more like Baton Rouge than a Northern metropolis before the end of the century. The effort began in 2006, when then-mayor Richard M. Daley, saying he was inspired in part by the Kyoto Protocol for reducing carbon emissions, asked climatologists to model how global warming might play out locally. Climatologists took into account a century’s worth of historical observations of daily temperatures and precipitation from 15 Chicago-area weather stations.

Armed with the forecasts, the city prioritized which adaptations would save the most money and would be the most feasible in the light of tight budgets and public skepticism. Among the ideas rejected, Ms. Malec-McKenna said, were plans to immediately shut down local coal-powered energy plants — "too much cost for too little payback." Instead, public alleyways are being repaved with materials that are permeable to water. The white oak, the state tree of Illinois, has been banned from city planting lists, and swamp oaks and sweet gum trees from the South have been given new priority. Thermal radar is being used to map the city’s hottest spots, which are then targets for pavement removal and the addition of vegetation to roofs. And air-conditioners are being considered for all 750 public schools, which until now have been heated but rarely cooled.

Local governments are under pressure to act, as insurance companies are applying pressure in high-risk areas, essentially saying adapt or pay higher premiums — especially in urban and commercial areas. The reinsurance giant Swiss Re, for example, has said that if the shore communities of four Gulf Coast states choose not to implement adaptation strategies, they could see annual climate-change related damages jump 65 percent a year to $23 billion by 2030. Melissa Stults, the climate director for ICLEI USA, an association of local governments, said that many of the administrations she was dealing with were following a strategy of “discreetly integrating preparedness into traditional planning efforts.”[59]

Coal train derailment

On July 5, 2012 a coal train derailed in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Illinois killing two individuals who were buried inside a car under a collapsed bridge.[60][61]



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  60. "Two bodies found under wreckage of train derailment, bridge collapse" Kate Scott, Chicago Sun-Times, July 5, 2012.
  61. "2 bodies in car found under tons of coal in rail bridge collapse" Chicago Tribune, July 6, 2012.


Existing coal plants in Illinois

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