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Illinois coal plant closes, leaves town in potential economic disarray

June 21, 2021

Energy News Network: 

Dulce Ortiz teared up during a virtual press conference as she recalled the family dinners and birthday celebrations she’s missed because of her dedication to the seemingly endless campaign to close the coal-fired power plant in Waukegan, Illinois. 

The surprise announcement on June 17 that the plant will close in 2022 was bittersweet for Ortiz and other members of the group Clean Power Lake County. It came just after a sweeping state energy bill yet again failed to pass, leaving in doubt “just transition” provisions that Waukegan residents say are desperately needed to help their town economically weather the closure and begin to mitigate the environmental injustice they say the plant has caused. 

The bill was widely expected to pass last week as the legislature had reconvened for a special session to consider it. But the Senate decided not to vote on the bill, reportedly because of opposition related to the impact on a $1.3 billion natural gas-fired plant under construction in downstate Grundy County. 

The latest version of the bill was spearheaded by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and hashed out over many months by a wide range of stakeholders. It demands coal plants close by 2035 and gas plants by 2045, ratcheting down emissions on the way. It also increases funding for renewables at a level meant to achieve 100% clean energy by 2050 and 40% by 2030 — ideally jump-starting a solar market that had boomed and then stalled after incentives created by a 2017 law ran out. 

[Kari Lydersen]

More: Illinois coal plants closing even as energy bill stalls

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