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updated: 7/13/2011 2:21 PM

Gov. Quinn to sign bill boosting coal-to-gas plant

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Associated Press

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Wednesday that could lead to the construction of a new plant in Chicago that converts coal to natural gas.

Quinn signed the legislation at a former steel mill site on Chicago's southeast side where New York-based Leucadia National Corp. wants to build the $3 billion plant.

"This project protects Illinois consumers, while continuing our position as a leader in clean energy technology by utilizing home grown resources to create the jobs of today and tomorrow," Quinn said in a statement.

Quinn vetoed earlier versions of the bill to avoid huge price increases for consumers. The new legislation limits natural gas bill increases to 2 percent per year.

The Sierra Club wasn't happy with Quinn's decision to sign the law.

"Creating synthetic natural gas is a very dirty way of getting our natural gas," Becki Clayborn, a representative for the Sierra Club's Midwest Clean Energy Campaign. "It's dirty, it's dangerous and it's unnecessary."

Clayborn said the law will saddle consumers with expensive natural gas for decades to come.

There are other hurdles before the new plant can open. Leucadia still has to get permission to add pollution to the crowded industrial area of Chicago where it wants to build. And, the company needs a buyer for its carbon dioxide emissions.

"We are committed to working closely with local leaders and community members to make this project a tangible benefit to Chicago and the entire state of Illinois," said Tom Mara, executive vice president of Leucadia in a statement.