Coal gasification plant in Jefferson County gets red light

By Julia Bruck - bioemail

JEFFERSON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - An economic boost slated for southern Illinois gets a red light. It came at the hands of Governor Pat Quinn, as he vetoed a bill needed to build a coal gasification plant in Jefferson County.

Quinn says our investments in clean coal must not come at the expense of consumers. Still there's mixed reaction on both sides of the project.

At the Pretty Pet Parlor in Waltonville, Bentley the dog gets his hair clipped.  Co-owner Kris Austin started the shop with his mother-in-law last January. Austin says talk of a large coal gasification plant, just down the road, was one of the reasons they started the business in the area.

"That was the buzz all around here, that we was hoping more people would come, they was excited about the new jobs," Austin said.

The plant was slated to bring hundreds of permanent jobs to Jefferson County.  Jefferson County Board Chairman Robert White says after the years of work on the project, it's hard to see so many potential jobs quickly washed away by Quinn's pen.

"Maybe instead of outright veto we come back, maybe address some of the issues that are of concern and see what valid points they have and see if we can change things to make this thing go forward," White said. "But to just dismiss it out of turn, tells me, he's out of touch and out of step with folks here in southern Illinois."

But opponents of the plant see Quinn's decision as a win for consumers. The Citizens Utility Board Executive Director David Kolata says a study shows the plant would lead to increased utility rates and, in turn, more job loss.

"Higher utility rates, takes money out of the economy and that's less money that could be spent for the mortgage, family vacations, the local store," Kolata said. "We don't think higher utility rates are in the interest of the Illinois economy and we didn't think there was enough consumer protection."

However at the Pretty Pet Parlor, Austin holds out hope that the project and those jobs are not completely gone, since they have plenty more room for other doggie hair appointments.

Meanwhile Illinois State Senator John Jones says he did put a call into the company which wanted to build the coal to gas plant. But Jones says he had not heard back from the company as of late Tuesday afternoon.

Copyright 2010 KFVS. All rights reserved.