Closure of Four Coal-Burning Power Plants in Illinois: Unsustainable

Four Illinois Coal-Burning Power Plants Closing

AUG 21, 2019
Vistra Energy coal power plant in Newton, IL
Vistra Energy coal power plant in Newton, IL. This Nov. 13, 2013 file photo shows the Ameren Corp. Power Plant outside of the Southern Illinois town of Newton. / AP PHOTO/JIM SUHR

Vistra Energy announced Wednesday it is closing its coal burning power plants in Canton, Havana, Hennepin and Coffeen.

The company said in a statement it will retire the four power plants in order to meet new revisions to the Multi-Pollutant Standard Rule introduced by the Illinois Pollution Control Board.

About 300 people will lose their jobs in the closures. The company is working to provide support services for those workers.

Vistra said it was closing the four power plants to save the other four plants it operates in Illinois. The company’s emissions in Illinois will be driven down 57 to 61 percent by the closures, getting it under the new cap, the company said.

“Even though today’s retirement announcements were inevitable due to the changing regulatory environment and unfavorable economic conditions in the MISO market, they are nonetheless difficult to make,” said Curt Morgan, Vistra’s president and chief executive officer in a statement. “By far, the hardest decisions we make in our business are those that significantly impact our people. As always, we will do right by those who are impacted by this announcement. Our employees take pride in the work they do, and we appreciate their decades of service providing reliable and affordable power to Illinois, particularly in years like this one with periods of extreme cold and heat.”

State Rep. Mike Unes (R-East Peoria), who represents the area where Canton’s Duck Creek Power Station is based, pinned the blame for the closures on former Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Future Energy Jobs Act he signed into law in 2016.

“It’s unfortunate that our former Governor and legislative leaders pushed a bill that causes the taxpayers of Illinois to subsidize other energy plants in Illinois while self-sufficient plants, like Duck Creek, are shuttered,” said Unes. “This is the outcome that I feared when this passed in 2016. The bill has now cost us head-of-household, IBEW union jobs at Duck Creek and also at nearby Havana Power Station.”

Unes said there is a group of “hard-core environmentalists” who won’t rest until every coal-burning power plant in Illinois has shuttered. He said that is costing his district desperately needed, well-paying jobs.

State Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) said he is “incredibly saddened” by the announcement and the hardships it will bring for Fulton County. He called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration to help those impacted.

“The fact is the current business market for coal-based energy is simply no longer sustainable. As we transition to an energy economy that focuses on limiting emissions, we must be proactive in helping those communities that this will adversely effect,” Koehler said.

“The governor’s primary concerns are to support workers at these locations and assist the impacted communities,” said Pritzker spokesperson Emily Bittner. “In particular, the governor directed agency heads to focus on developing potential short-term opportunities connected to work on the state’s major infrastructure investments, as well as addressing broader impacts and ripple effects in these communities.”

The governor’s office noted Vistra began signaling potential power plant closures as early as February 2018. The new rules were issued on Aug. 13.

Vistra said it plans to close all four plants by the end of the year if it is determined they aren’t needed to continue providing reliable power sources by federal regulators.

Duck Creek employs 60 people. 75 people work at Havana, and 60 at Hennepin. About 95 people work at the Coffeen plant.

Editor’s note: The photo above depicts the Newton Power Plant in southern Illinois, not the Duck Creek Power Station in Canton as originally labeled.