A $2.5 billion clean-coal power plant proposed for Taylorville got a new lease on life Wednesday when the Illinois House overwhelmingly approved a bill developers said is crucial to the project.

A $2.5 billion clean-coal power plant proposed for Taylorville got a new lease on life Wednesday when the Illinois House overwhelmingly approved a bill developers said is crucial to the project.


 


By an 86-5 vote, the House passed Senate Bill 1987, which will allow design work to begin on the Taylorville Energy Center. It is similar to a bill that failed by 10 votes in the House in the closing hours of the spring session.


 


Rep. Gary Hannig, D-Litchfield, said the latest version contains “some safeguards” to mollify utility giant Commonwealth Edison, which opposed the earlier bill. That includes more oversight of the project by the Illinois Commerce Commission.


 


“They were concerned that some of the cost might be excessive,” Hannig said. “Now the Illinois Commerce Commission will have an opportunity to say yes or no to that. We have to prove to the power companies that we can produce this in Taylorville in a clean and economically feasible way.”


 


The Taylorville Energy Center would use coal-gasification technology and Illinois coal to produce 525 megawatts of electricity while controlling carbon dioxide emissions. Tenaska, a Nebraska-based company behind the project, said the plant will create 1,500 construction jobs, 200 coal mining jobs and 150 jobs to operate the plant.


 


Bart Ford, vice president for business development at Tenaska, released a written statement Wednesday saying the bill “presented several complex issues and required extensive compromise.”  If approved by the Senate, it will enable the project to move forward, he said.


 


The Senate, however, is not scheduled to return to Springfield until November.


 


If the bill ultimately is signed into law by the governor, Tenaska will design the plant and conduct a cost and engineering study to show the project’s feasibility. Hannig said that process will probably take about 18 months.


 


Before construction can begin, the General Assembly will have to take another vote giving it the go-ahead. Under the latest version of the bill, the cost/engineering study will be reviewed by the ICC and the Illinois Power Authority, which will make recommendations to the General Assembly.


 


“There will be more independent analysis done prior to a General Assembly vote to proceed with the facility,” said Susan Hedman, environmental counsel for Attorney General Lisa Madigan.


 


Hedman, who helped negotiate the latest version of the bill, said the ICC will also now have the authority every three years to review costs from the plant being passed through to consumers.


 


Under SB1987, the state’s utilities are still required to purchase up to 5 percent of their power from clean-coal facilities. There is a limit on increased costs to consumers, which means utilities could purchase less if energy produced by the plant is expensive.


 


If the Taylorville project gets the OK to proceed, construction isn’t expected to start before 2014.  It would take two years to build the plant and get it on-line.


 


  Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527.