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Quinn signs coal gasification plant bill

People walk near mound salt site new coal gasifactiplant which is site former LTV coke plant 115th Burley Avenue Chicago

People walk near a mound of salt on the site of the new coal gasifaction plant which is on the site of the former LTV coke plant at 115th and Burley Avenue in Chicago, IL on Monday July 11, 2011. It is called the Chicago Clean Energy Project | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Chicago Clean Energy, a subsidiary of Leucadia National Corp., plans to use a chemical process to convert coal and petroleum coke into synthetic natural gas at a $3 billion plant it proposes to build in Chicago’s East Side community. Carbon dioxide and other emissions would be captured and eventually stored underground, according to Gov. Quinn’s office.

Utilities such as Nicor and Peoples Gas would be required to buy natural gas produced by the plant, but Quinn said legislation he signed Wednesday to approve the plant contains consumer safeguards. He had vetoed a similar bill earlier this year.

With the Chicago project, Leucadia has three other gasification plants in development in the United States, including one in Indiana.

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Updated: October 31, 2011 1:12PM



Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Wednesday that would help establish the state’s first coal gasification plant on land owned by three Southland men.

Leucadia National Corp., through its subsidiary, Chicago Clean Energy, plans to invest $3 billion in the plant, which would be built on the site of the former LTV Steel coke batteries at 114th Street and Burley Avenue.

Chicago Clean Energy would clean up the brownfield site, shuttered after LTV Steel went bankrupt at the end of 2000. Quinn signed the legislation at the site of the former coke plant.

The 140-acre site is owned by Orland Park resident Alan Beemsterboer and his cousins, Simon Beemsterboer and Steve Beemsterboer. Simon lives in Mokena and Steve in Frankfort.

Chicago Clean Energy still has to file an application with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to build the gasification plant, which would create at least 1,000 construction jobs and 200 permanent jobs, according to Tom Mara, an executive vice president with Leucadia and president of Chicago Clean Energy.

The project faces opposition from some area residents as well as environmental groups, including the Sierra Club. Quinn called the plant a “clean energy project” that would convert Illinois coal to natural gas in an “environmentally positive way.”

The governor suggested the plant, which would consume at least 1 million tons of coal annually, would be instrumental in helping the United States become more energy independent. He also hinted that securing a reliable domestic energy supply might trump environmental concerns.

“We have to be practical and realistic in our country,” Quinn said. “Ultimately, we have to have energy.”

Earlier this year, Quinn vetoed similar legislation allowing Chicago Clean Energy to build the plant after opponents, including consumer groups, warned the result could be higher natural gas prices. Quinn said Wednesday that the new legislation incorporated consumer safeguards.

Mara said construction of the plant could take four years, and a consultant to Chicago Clean Energy said the process of securing a permit from the state to build and operate the plant could take 18 months.

The Beemsterboers operate Calumet Transload on the property, adjacent to the Calumet River, and the company unloads and stores roadsalt used by Chicago-area municipalities. Operations would relocate to a new site once construction of the gasification plant gets under way, Alan Beemsterboer said Wednesday.

Utilities such as Nicor and People’s Gas would be required to buy synthetic natural gas produced by the plant.



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