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Last fall, as Illinois lawmakers were considering a bill authorizing construction of the proposed Taylorville Energy Center, Tenaska, the developer of the plant, made a pretty clear threat.

“Tenaska either moves forward or gives up on the Taylorville plant,” company vice president Bart Ford told the Springfield State Journal-Register in November.

At issue was a provision that would have required utilities to buy energy from the “clean” coal plant for 30 years. In order to protect individual consumers, the bill passed on cost overruns to large businesses, and opposition from business groups eventually prompted the state Senate to reject the bill – not once, but twice.

Tenaska’s threat to take their ball and go home was repeated throughout this process.

“It’s time for Illinois to make a decision,” Ford told the Carbondale Southern in December. “If the decision is that this isn’t good for Illinois, I can’t imagine another clean-coal project coming in to Illinois.”

In January, Tenaska general manager Bill Braudt told FOX Illinois that lawmakers had one week to approve the plant, or they’d walk away from it altogether.

“We’ve spent five years trying to develop this project, and $40 million of our own money,” he said. “And if it doesn’t pass this time there is not much confidence that we have that it will be passed later.”

After the bill was finally rejected, though, we didn’t hear much from Tenaska. And in our story yesterday on the delayed Denbury CO2 pipeline, we learn from spokesman Dave Lundy that the company still hasn’t made a decision on whether to withdraw the project.

Project spokesman Dave Lundy said it is unclear if Tenaska will continue to push the plant, which would have moved about three million tons of carbon dioxide through the pipeline annually. Lundy noted that a plant Tenaska is hoping to develop in Texas could make more than $100 million a year selling carbon dioxide for nearby enhanced oil recovery operations.

“But building and maintaining a pipeline is also expensive, so you get a greatly diminishing financial benefit for Midwestern carbon dioxide shippers, where instead of becoming a revenue stream it could become closer to a wash,” Lundy said.

The Southern said in December that Taylorville may be “clean” coal’s “Last Stand” in Illinois. Looks like we’ll have to wait a while to find out if that’s true.

Ken Paulman

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

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