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Downstate workers, economy to benefit from coal plan

20150512 113556SPRINGFIELD— The Coffeen Power Station sits barely six miles away from the Deer Run coal mine outside Hillsboro. In contrast, the power plant is more than 900 miles away from coal mines in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.

Under current state rules, however, coal mined in Hillsboro can’t be burned in the Coffeen plant so Hillsboro coal gets shipped out of the state and the plant ships in coal from western states like Wyoming.

That fact is costing Illinois utility customers and hurting Illinois jobs in areas with high unemployment.

State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) and other downstate lawmakers used Coffeen as an example of how boosting the use of Illinois coal in Illinois power plants will improve local and regional downstate economies during a press conference Tuesday.

“There is something absurd about paying more for out-of-state coal when there are Illinois coal miners out of work and an entire region suffers from high unemployment,” Manar said.

Illinois regulatory rules make it easier for power plants to shift the cost of buying low-sulfur western coal to customers than it is to use updated technology to burn higher-sulfur Illinois coal.

“To put people to work and grow our economy, we must take advantage of the coal resources that lie beneath our feet,” Bradley said. “Coal mining and the economic spin off was a leading force in Illinois’ economic development decades ago and certainly should be again as we seek to employ more Illinoisans in the years to come.”

In Montgomery County where both the Coffeen plant and the Hillsboro mine are located has a 7.3 percent unemployment rate.

“Coffeen is a small-scale example but if we increase the demand for local coal, the benefits will ripple throughout the state and its economy,” Manar said.

Manar and Bradley are continuing to discuss the issue of Illinois coal competiveness so that it will be included in statewide energy negotiations and reform.

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