Lawmakers push use of Illinois coal

After hundreds of layoffs in the past calendar year, Illinois lawmakers are pushing for more Illinois-mined coal to stay in state by passing a state resolution.

Ninety-four percent of the nearly 50 million tons of coal burned in Illinois power plants is imported from Wyoming.

State Rep. John Bradley says electric companies then pass the cost of transportation along to customers, resulting in higher utility rates.

Meanwhile, Illinois exports about 50 million tons of coal each year to Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and Iowa.

Bradley says keeping Illinois coal in the land of Lincoln would create about 8,000 jobs.

"You can look at the Baldwin power plant, which is owned by Dynegry. If they could burn Illinois coal, that would support two underground mines similar to our Prairie Eagle operation,” said Andrew Carter, VP of Knight Hawk Coal.

Using more Illinois coal would not only create more jobs, but, according to Carter, it could reduce your electric rates by reducing the transportation costs of importing coal from Wyoming.

"Coal for the most part is a commodity that is all sold at a similar price,” Carter said. “Moving coal 15 miles as opposed to 3,000 miles there is a big savings on logistics."

However, Illinois coal has nearly five times more acid rain, causing sulfur, than its Wyoming counterpart.

Many power plants have been retrofitted to remove the sulfur dioxide emissions, but Carter sees a bigger issue.

“There's been talk about increased subsidies on renewables and a bailout of the Excelon Nuclear Plant in conjunction," Carter said. "And I don't know that's a good tradeoff for ratepayers in the state of Illinois."

With a price tag in the range of $200 million to $500 million for sulfur scrubbers, Carter says it is more likely that power plants burn a higher percentage of Illinois coal while remaining under emission standards.

The resolution, called House Resolution 560, passed by a vote of 66 to 47. It has since been referred to the Coal Finance Subcommittee, where it is awaiting the results of cost and utilization reports.

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