Battle of Tenaska project heats up, again
By TONY REID – H&R Staff Writer
TAYLORVILLE — The battle over whether a $3.6 billion new power station gets built near Taylorville continues to heat up.
Critics of the plant, which could come up for a crucial vote in the Illinois House this month, are now claiming its cost to Illinois taxpayers has shot up 40 percent since the plant’s developers did their initial cost studies in 2010. The power station would work by turning coal into gas and the critics say the cost escalation is driven by the plunging price of natural gas, a major alternative fuel source for electricity generation.
The developers, Nebraska-based Tenaska, hit back Monday by accusing its detractors of using “fuzzy math” to deliberately mislead and distort the cost picture.
The big opposition to the proposed power station, to be called the Taylorville Energy Center, comes from a group called the STOP Coalition. Its members include many leading companies including Decatur-based Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Tate & Lyle, who object to 30-year contracts that legislation enabling the plant would require utility companies to sign with Tenaska.
A study funded by Exelon on behalf of STOP says the extra cost to Illinois consumers for power produced by the Taylorville plant could be $400 million a year for those 30-year contracts, or $12 billion.
“The cost of the Taylorville Energy Center just keeps going up,” said David Vite, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which supports STOP. “The rate hike from this project would fall especially hard on businesses at a time when we need to stay focused on growing the economy and putting people back to work.”
But Tenaska says STOP refuses to tell the whole story. It says STOP’s cost comparisons with today’s prices are unfair because Tenaska’s cost projections allow for things like 30 years worth of inflation. Tenaska claims STOP exaggerates the effect of natural gas prices while ignoring other issues like historically low interest rates and a $417 million Investment Tax Credit which will significantly lower the power plant’s costs to consumers.
Tenaska also says that older Illinois coal-fired power plants are being shutdown and the state needs new clean-burning coal plants to come on line.
“(This makes) it more important than ever that Illinois proceeds with the Taylorville project,” said Bart Ford, a Tenaska vice president.
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