Sierra Club appeals, again, an air permit for FutureGen 2.0

The Sierra Club on Dec. 11 filed an appeal in Illinois’ Fourth District Appellate Court of the Illinois Pollution Control Board’s (IPCB) Nov. 6 decision to allow the FutureGen 2.0 project to move forward as permitted.

The Sierra Club argued that Clean Air Act construction permit for the FutureGen coal plant project in Meredosia, Illinois, fails to address significant air quality issues raised by the project’s emissions. The IPCB ruling contradicts Illinois law as well as the federal Clean Air Act, the club said, adding that the IPCB also failed to provide Sierra Club with the legally required opportunity to access vital information prior to issuing its decision.

“The permit for the FutureGen coal plant doesn’t match the project’s hype,” said Holly Bender, Deputy Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign. “The FutureGen Alliance promised the U.S. Department of Energy, the State of Illinois, and its citizens that it was building a ‘near-zero emissions’ plant that would capture 90 percent of its carbon dioxide. The permit FutureGen now possesses is for a very different project. The Sierra Club is simply working to realign this project to its promise.”

The FutureGen 2.0 coal plant puts Illinois citizens on the hook to pay dramatically above-market rates for power from the project for decades, all while clean energy prices continue to plummet, the club added. The Illinois Supreme Court announced earlier this month that it will hear an appeal from The Illinois Competitive Energy Association and a group of industrial energy customers about whether electricity consumers across the state will have to subsidize the FutureGen project.

Beyond the Dec. 11 appeal filed by the Sierra Club regarding the project’s troubled air permit, local landowners have filed an appeal of FutureGen’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) permit, which authorizes the plant to inject more than 22 million metric tons of CO2 into the ground near their property. This appeal currently sits with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Appeals Board.

The Illinois Pollution Control Board on Nov. 6 granted a motion for summary judgment to the FutureGen Industrial Alliance on the Sierra Club’s challenge to an air permit for the project. The FutureGen 2.0 project will physically replace an existing boiler at the shut Meredosia Energy Center with a new oxy-combustion boiler that will use the existing Turbine 4 and other auxiliary equipment. Much of the CO2 from the plant will be captured for underground injection nearby.

Said the Nov. 6 board decision about this appeal of an air permit issued by the state Environmental Protection Agency: “The Board finds that summary judgment is appropriate as no genuine issue of material fact exists. Therefore, the Board grants respondents’ motion for summary judgment. Based on the undisputed facts, the Board finds that respondents have not violated Section 9.1(d) of the Act (415 ILCS 5/9.1(d) (2012)). As the Board has granted summary judgment, the request to expedite the decision is moot. Also the Board denies the motions for a continuance and for oral argument filed by the Sierra Club.”

The Sierra Club complaint alleged that the alliance violated the law by proposing to construct a new or modified major emitting facility without a permit required by the Clean Air Act’s (CAA) Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) Program. The Illinois EPA had agreed that this permit was not needed. The minor source construction permits that were issued provide that the FutureGen Project is not subject to federal PSD requirements because the “project will not be accompanied by significant net increases in emissions of PSD pollutants, considering the past actual emissions of the existing” Meredosia Energy Center. The board noted that in June, a federal court dismissed a similar complaint from the Sierra Club, with the court saying the board was the proper venue for this issue.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.