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Illinois House approves incentives for big coal project

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A rendering of what the FutureGen plant could look like

By AP/KWMU

Springfield, Ill. – Lawmakers in the Illinois House on Tuesday approved a package of economic incentives and legal protections in hopes of bringing a cutting-edge power plant to the state.

The $1.5 billion project, dubbed FutureGen, would burn coal but eliminate air pollution by storing emissions deep underground. Proponents say it could lead to a new wave of clean-burning power plants while creating hundreds of jobs for eastern Illinois.

"With this project, Illinois is going to be the leader not only in the nation but in the world," said the sponsor, Rep. Kurt Granberg (D-Carlyle). "This is critical to the future of Illinois."

The incentive package offers $80 million to the FutureGen developers $15 million in tax breaks through an enterprise zone, $17 million in grants and a $50 million low-interest loan, said Rep. Chapin Rose, (R-Mahomet). Local communities are also offering incentives, and those towns could get additional state help with roads and other improvement.

The state would also agree to protect FutureGen developers from liability due to accidents or injuries. In essence, the state would take out an insurance policy to cover the cost of any lawsuit, Rose said.

The measure passed 99-0 and now goes to the Senate.

Illinois is competing against Texas for the project. Two Illinois sites are being considered, one in Tuscola and one in Mattoon. One study found the project could create more than 300 jobs and $20 million in annual wages.

A decision on the plant's location is expected in November.

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