(SPRINGFIELD, IL) Today the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) modified the widely criticized proposal by Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration to bail out Dynegy-Vistra coal power plants in Illinois. Dynegy and Vistra Energy recently merged in a deal worth $20 billion, yet still claimed financial hardship and urged state officials to ease clean-air rules. The proposed change would have led to worse air quality and detrimental health impacts in communities already among the hardest hit by pollution.
The proposed changes followed eight months of backroom talks between Dynegy and Gov. Rauner’s Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) lead by former coal lobbyist Alec Messina. In January, the proposal drew fire in the Chicago Tribune for Messina’s close ties to the company, highlighted by a lawsuit from advocacy groups about Illinois’ failure to ensure that conflict of interest safeguards are in place. Today’s ruling lowers the annual cap on pollution from Dynegy-Vistra’s plants and requires that the cap be reduced when plants are retired, mothballed, or sold. These important revisions to IEPA’s proposal reflect the input of thousands of individual testimonies, and reject Dynegy-Vistra’s request that would have allowed it to close some plants while running cheaper, dirtier plants. Advocate groups see this as a move in the right direction but raise concerns from communities impacted by pollution from Dynegy-Vistra coal plants.
“Today, the Pollution Control Board delivered a vital check to the Rauner/Messina backroom coal bailout, which was spurred by false claims of economic hardship from the multi-billion-dollar Texas corporation, Dynegy-Vistra. However, the new proposal can still lead to thousands more tons of pollution than the original standard allowed for people in Peoria, Metro East, and other locations where poorer or minority communities live near power plants.
“The Board heard thousands of Illinois residents and dozens of Illinois legislators who spoke out against this proposal and responded by making changes. As the process moves forward, it is important that the Board continue to listen and ensure that the next hearing is held in a community like Peoria that is impacted by Dynegy-Vistra’s pollution, that time and space for public comment is available, and that adequate 30 day notice is given so that this process can continue to work as it should. Instead of weakening air pollution rules for Texas-based corporations, Illinois needs to double-down on creating new jobs in our expanding clean energy economy, diversifying local economies in Central and Southern Illinois, and protecting the air we breathe.”
- Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, Respiratory Health Association, Environmental Law and Policy Center, MEGA, Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance, IPA, Natural Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, Prairie Rivers Network, Illinois Environmental Council
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