- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2008

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The U.S. Department of Energy, frustrated by ballooning costs for an ambitious plan to build a virtually emissions-free power plant, told federal lawmakers yesterday it plans to pull its support for the $1.8 billion project in Illinois, lawmakers said.

The Energy Department, or DOE, would not publicly divulge its intentions about the plant, dubbed FutureGen, or discuss what was said during the private meeting with lawmakers, saying only that it planned an announcement within days.

But some lawmakers who attended the briefing later insisted that any departure from building the coal-fired, 275-megawatt prototype power plant anywhere other than the central Illinois town of Mattoon would be unacceptable — and grounds for a possibly nasty congressional fight.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, accused Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman of “cruel deception” of Illinoisans by “creating false hope in a FutureGen project which he has no intention of funding or supporting.”

Mr. Durbin said Illinois’ delegation in Congress “is going to make the case for FutureGen directly to the president.”

“We will not go down without a fight,” he said.

The FutureGen Alliance, a coalition of power and coal companies, last month announced the plant would be built in Mattoon under a plan that called for DOE to cover three-quarters of the cost. The site was chosen over Tuscola, Ill., and two sites in Texas.

But DOE had wanted the announcement delayed until the project could be redesigned and the costs reduced.

The department also said it wasn’t ready to issue its final notice that Mattoon was environmentally acceptable.

Mr. Bodman declined to discuss the Energy Department’s plans yesterday with the Associated Press, and a statement issued by his agency did not divulge the department’s plan for FutureGen.

While saying it “remains committed to FutureGen’s objectives to advance the availability and use of clean-coal technology to meet growing demand and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the department said it “believes that the public interest mandates that FutureGen deliver the greatest possible technological benefits in the most cost-efficient manner.”

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