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Southeast Side Residents Want Quinn To Block Coal Plant

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Coal Gasification Plant Site

A coal gasification plant is planned for a 140-acre site at 116th Street and Burley Avenue in Chicago. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A war has been brewing on Chicago’s Southeast Side over a proposed $3 billion coal-powered synthetic gas plant.

The plant would be built at 116th Street and Burley Avenue. Supports have said it will bring new jobs and green economic development. But as CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports, critics are calling on the governor to veto the project.

A synthetic gas plant would be built at a 140-acre site at 116th and Burley. The facility would be used to convert goal to heating gas, a process called gasification.

The Chicago Clean Energy development team called it clean, green and a huge boost to the economy.

“It’s going to put a lot of people to work. It’s going to save ratepayers money. It’s going to advance a clean energy technology in Illinois that’s really a path forward,” said Hoyt Hudson of Eco-Industrial Development.

But local residents said they were never asked what they thought.

“We’ve not been informed at all,” said a very angry Manuel Soriano. “Oh yes. I’m angry and I’m disgusted.”

Soriano said that, with schools and homes nearby, he has one primary concern.

“Health, health, we need the health,” he said.

Hudson disagrees.

“This will be one of the cleanest energy facilities in the entire country,” he said. “Also by law, we’ll be subject to some of the most stringent environmental protocols in the entire country.”

But residents have other concerns.

The legislation allowing the facility calls upon the state’s gas companies to enter 30-year contracts with New York-based developer Leucadia. And that makes some residents nervous.

“Yeah, because you’ve cinched into a 30-year contract, like the Skyway, the parking meters. Those things are iron-clad. You can’t get out of those.”

The deal also allows the company to sell its fuel at prices equal to about double the current wholesale natural gas prices.

Residents aren’t alone in their opposition. A recent Chicago Tribune editorial called the project “a raw deal” for some of the gas companies and said it was “rammed through the House with scant review.”

How will it impact the cost of gas to consumers?

“The law requires us to lower rather than raise rates,” said Hudson.

And if they don’t?

“There will be mechanisms in the contract by which that can be enforced,” he said.

The plant will bring about 2,000 jobs during construction, but only 200 permanent jobs.

Critics want Gov. Pat Quinn to veto the legislation. A spokesperson said the governor supports measures that sustain jobs and renewable energy, but did not specify whether he would sign the bill for the coal gasification plant.

Even if he signs it, the permit process would offer lots of opportunities for public input.

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