Illinois approved plans for a new natural gas power plant despite recently-passed legislation that is among the nation’s most ambitious clean energy laws.

Illinois Green-Lights Emission-Heavy Power Plant Shortly After Passing Clean Energy Law

Thomas Catenacci

Illinois approved plans for a new natural gas power plant despite recently-passed legislation that is among the nation’s most ambitious clean energy laws.

The plant, the Lincoln Land Energy Center, would emit more carbon dioxide than 800,000 automobiles annually under the permit approved by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration, The Chicago Tribune reported on Tuesday. The natural gas plant along with two under-construction plants approved by the former Republican administration in 2018 would emit a whopping 12.7 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.

By comparison, four coal plants that the state shut down last year emitted 7.8 million tons of the greenhouse gas on an annual basis, according to the Tribune.

“That certainly appears to be inconsistent with the path Illinois has chosen to move toward carbon-free energy,” James Gignac, Midwest energy analyst for the environmental group Union of Concerned Scientists, told the Tribune.

In September, Pritzker signed climate legislation making Illinois the first state in the Midwest to shutter all remaining coal-fired plants by 2045. The bill was a part of the most aggressive action on climate change nationwide.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the legislation was “bold state-level action” on climate change.

But the state still moved forward on the three approved plants despite the law and pleas from environmentalists, the Tribune reported.

“Renewables with storage are far more economical than any fossil fuel,” J.C. Kibbey, an advocate at the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council, told the Tribune. “While we’re scaling that up and bringing prices down, gas will probably fill gaps when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing.”

“What I fear is these developers are pursuing a world where their gas plants run 24/7, and we just can’t allow that if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change,” he continued.

Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokesperson for Pritzker, skirted the blame, arguing that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency controlled the permitting process for such power plants, according to the Tribune. The governor doesn’t have the authority to green-light power plant permits.

“The IEPA must follow applicable statutory and regulatory provisions governing that process,” Abudayyeh told the Tribune.

However, IEPA Director John Kim was appointed by Pritzker in 2019.

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