SPRINGFIELD -- Although a final recommendation is still pending, the U.S. Department of Energy said in a report that the FutureGen power project in western Illinois should go forward.
The agency released the final environmental study on Wednesday. It says the project, whose cost is now pegged at $1.65 billion, would help meet the country's long-term goal of developing diverse energy sources and do it without significant environmental impacts.
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The long-planned public-private project has $1 billion in federal stimulus funding to go along with private funds.
"The development of carbon capture and storage technologies through FutureGen 2.0 would demonstrate a viable path forward for the ongoing and future use of the nation's abundant coal reserves that address both aging infrastructure and environmental challenges," the report states.
The State Journal-Register reports a final decision should come by the end of the year on the $1.65 billion project.
The project as it's now planned would refit an existing coal-fired power plant in Meredosia to produce electricity while removing carbon dioxide from the fuel and storing it underground at a nearby location. Meredosia is in Morgan County about 60 miles west of Springfield.
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas linked to climate change.
The group planning the project, the FutureGen Alliance, consists of a handful of mainly coal companies working with the Department of Energy. The project has been through a long series of delays and setbacks.
Initially planned during President George W. Bush's administration, it would have built a new power plant near Mattoon in eastern Illinois and stored the CO2 there. That version of the project was called off due to rising costs, though some supporters blamed politics for its demise.
Local opponents of the project argue that the CO2 could wind up polluting water supplies and the air. A petition opposed to the project that was part of the study includes 340 signatures.
But the study found that FutureGen would create no significant environmental problems. Plant operators would be required to monitor and report on the underground plume from the CO2 storage.
A final Department of Energy decision on whether construction should start is expected by the end of the year. If the project moves ahead, the plant is expected to start producing power in 2017.