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Agreement could shutter Edwards coal plant in 2022

Source: 
Journal Star

Sep. 16--PEORIA -- An agreement could be in place to shutter the E.D. Edwards coal power plant in Peoria County that has been subject to a lawsuit by environmental groups since 2013.

The Sierra Club announced Monday that a proposed settlement would go to the federal judge hearing the case. It's been agreed to both by environmental groups and by Illinois Power Resources Generating, the affiliate of Vistra Energy that operates the plant, said Ryan Hidden, who helped organize the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign.

The agreement would, among other things, see the plant closed by the end of 2022 and provide $8.6 million in funds for workforce development and public health and environmental projects, according to a Sierra Club news release. More than 70 employees work at the facility.

"For families in Peoria and Central Illinois this proposed settlement is an important milestone in improving air quality," Hidden said. "If approved, this settlement will include millions of dollars for the local community to spur job growth in the clean energy industry, provide educational and job training opportunities, reduce energy bills, and improve public health. Residents in the Peoria area have been working for years to voice concerns and hopes to push for a cleaner and more just energy future."

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing the settlement, Hidden said in a phone interview, and after that it's likely to be sent to U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade for approval.

"The proposed settlement resolves a long-running lawsuit while providing three years of certainty for the more than 70 employees working at the Edwards plant and, importantly, a transition period for the community to plan for the plant closure," IPRG said in a statement. "IPRG and Edwards look forward to continuing to provide reliable power for Illinois for the next three years while supporting the communities where our employees live and work."

Environmental advocates have pointed to emissions concerns affecting parts of the region, including Peoria's south side.

"For the families near the Edwards power plant this news marks an important benchmark in improving the quality of our air," Marvin Hightower, who heads the local chapter of the NAACP, said in a statement. "We are glad that the parties in this case have come to agreement on a proposed settlement that not only shuts down a dirty power plant but could provide funding for workforce development, and public health and environmental projects that benefit Peoria-area communities.

"Across the country it is black and brown communities that bear the heaviest burden of the fossil fuel industry's pollution, but today we breathe just a little easier as we take another step towards a clean energy future that listens to environmental justice communities like ours when it matters most," Hightower said.

The news comes less than a month after Vistra announced plans to close its coal power plants in Canton, Havana, Hennepin and in Coffeen, which is south of Springfield.

Vistra suggested at that time that officials there hoped state lawmakers would pass legislation providing help in turning the coal sites into solar and battery energy storage facilities and preserving jobs in the area through the Coal to Solar and Energy Storage Act.

Other groups, including local environmental advocates and state Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, had been backing the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which would move Illinois toward a 100% renewable energy portfolio, as well as providing job retraining programs for workers at former coal plants.

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(c)2019 the Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.)

Visit the Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.) at www.PJStar.com

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