Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » Rauner administration sets off alarm bells with proposed coal pollution rules
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Rauner administration sets off alarm bells with proposed coal pollution rules

Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tribune

In a move that could lead to dirtier air in Chicago and other downwind communities as far away as New York, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is pushing to overhaul stringent limits on lung-damaging pollution from some of the last coal-fired power plants in Illinois.

Proposed amendments to state rules would scrap limits on the rate of pollution from a fleet of eight coal plants in central and southern Illinois owned by Dynegy Inc. Instead, the state would impose annual caps on tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emitted by the fleet — a subtle but significant change that could stall or reverse efforts to reduce Dynegy’s contributions to smog, soot and acid rain.

Drafted with extensive input from the company’s Chicago-based attorneys, the proposed pollution caps are significantly higher than what Dynegy’s fleet emitted during each of the past two years, according to a Tribune analysis of federal pollution data.

Alec Messina, director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, said the goal is to keep the financially struggling coal plants open by giving Houston-based Dynegy more flexibility to operate individual generating units, several of which are not equipped with modern pollution controls. Before joining the Rauner administration, Messina worked as a lobbyist for a trade group that represents the company’s interests in Illinois. […]

None of the Dynegy plants burns Illinois coal; the company ships its fuel by train from Wyoming mines that produce coal with a lower sulfur content. But the company employs about 1,000 people in Illinois and the power plants contribute to the tax base of local communities, making their survival a potent campaign issue as Rauner seeks re-election next year.

* The story has prompted a couple of campaign responses. Here’s Ameya Pawar…

“For too long, politicians have allowed major corporations and powerful special interests to exert control over our government, to the point of allowing companies to rewrite laws that serve their own self-interests. Gov. Rauner is continuing that tradition by allowing Dynegy to rewrite environmental regulations to benefit the coal giant at the expense of public health and the environment. As governor, I’ll stand up to the political insiders, special interests and corporations who put profits over people and will fight to protect our environment and improve people’s lives in our state.”

Illinois has the opportunity to lead the country in the fight against climate change and the creation of a 21st century economy. Pawar believes a commitment to environmental sustainability is the best path to economic prosperity and quality jobs that cannot be automated or shipped overseas. Through statewide green initiatives, protections and policies, we can revitalize our economy, create 21st century jobs, improve quality of life, and protect our future.

The coal industry doesn’t employ enough Illinois residents to justify preferential treatment in our energy mix. These plants increase asthma and local air pollution, damaging the health of our communities. Over the next 18 years, we should make a commitment to replace all that dirty power with renewable energy. Wind and solar energy are approaching grid parity in many areas, and the economics of those projects will continue to improve if we make long term commitments and deploy these technologies around the state. We can accelerate the pace of renewable integration by harnessing local installation expertise, lower the barriers to permitting and grid integration, and make an investment in our energy future.

* Sen. Daniel Biss…

“With this revelation, Bruce Rauner has proven himself an ally to those who seek to pollute our ecosystem, as well as our political system. He’s allowed coal company lobbyists to rewrite their industry’s own regulations, endangering the health of generations of Illinoisans and threatening the land on which we all live in exchange for continued political support. As Rauner once again chooses billionaires over working families, he’s confirming who he represents in the Governor’s mansion, and it isn’t the rest of us. Too bad for Bruce, it is the rest of us who get to decide who belongs in the governor’s mansion, how we run our state, and whether we will fight for a clean environment for generations to come.”

…Adding… Kennedy campaign…

Governor Rauner’s Illinois EPA has become a lackey for coal industry executives who are more driven by profits than by a belief in innovation and progress. The IEPA agreed to change a provision concerning pollution caps to allow coal companies to close plants with more pollution control equipment and replace them with cheaper, dirtier plants that tend to be more profitable. This change alone is an abdication of responsibility by the IEPA, and it is a deplorable sacrifice of the public good in order to increase the profit margins for Rauner’s big business allies.

We cannot allow the standards that protect the environment and our families’ health to be hijacked by company executives behind closed doors. We need open and frank discussions about how to overcome our environmental and economic challenges.

…Adding More… Press release…

The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition issued the following statement today in the wake of a report published today by the Chicago Tribune detailing a proposed rule change being drafted by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency:

“After having worked for more than two years in an open, transparent process to pass historic clean energy legislation, the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition is deeply disappointed to learn of backroom negotiations taking place between Gov. Rauner’s political appointees at the Illinois EPA and Houston-based Dynegy Inc., which would result in massive new air pollution for the state of Illinois and beyond. We are especially dismayed by this turn of events given that Gov. Rauner less than a year ago signed into law the Future Energy Jobs Act, a bill which brings cleaner air and better health to people across the state, and in particular will deliver groundbreaking investments in clean energy development to central and southern Illinois. Instead of advancing real, long-term economic solutions for Illinois communities and protecting public health, the Rauner administration appears to be re-writing critical rules to help an out-of-state company pad its profits while polluting our air.”

…Adding Even More… JB Pritzker tweeted this out today

Instead of working to protect our environment, @GovRauner is showing his loyalty to his special interest friends.

By making an inside deal with an out-of-state polluter, Rauner makes it clear that special interests take priority over our state.

We need a governor who puts Illinoisans first, and that’s exactly what I’ll do in Springfield.

* Meanwhile, let’s set the Wayback Machine to March of 2015

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s bid to dig the state out of its financial hole could strip a program designed to boost Illinois coal production.

As part of the Republican governor’s spending proposal for the fiscal year beginning July 1, the Office of Coal Marketing and Development at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity would be reduced from eight employees to zero.


  1. - OkComputer - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:51 am:

    Looks like Rauner’s team co-wrote the new regulations with Dynegy.

    Who needs President Trump when you have Governor Rauner?

  2. - Huh? - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:54 am:

    Lawsuits to be filed in . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

  3. - Chicago Cynic - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:56 am:

    This is going to backfire big time.

  4. - Texas Red - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:57 am:

    These are baseline power plants essential to daily generation. If you like the lights to go on you should be in favor of this move.

  5. - Ok - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:01 am:

    Was this the director acting on his own as a former coal lobbyist, or is this a product of BTIA?

  6. - FEJA - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:02 am:

    So now he wants to undo the environmental good he did with the Future Energy Jobs Act and just make it a corporate bailout? So much for him moving back to the middle.

  7. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:03 am:

    Exelon got theirs for their nukes, now here comes Dynegy for their corporate welfare handout.

    Rauner greased it so Exelon can pick you pocket directly. Now he wants to let Dynegy do it indirectly by polluting your lungs.

    Rauner’s not much of a believer in free market capitalism, is he? Profitable, multi-billion-dollar energy companies come crying about how they can’t compete, and he goes all state central planning commissar for them, propping them up at the expense and health of the citizenry.

  8. - Seiun - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:06 am:

    The elimination of the Coal office at DCEO was to destroy the transparency and statute/regulation ability of state government

    It’s also why they destroyed the DCEO bureau of Policy Development, Planning and Research.

    Can’t have economic numbers contradicting the Governor

    These eliminations combined with starving the entire agency, cutting all manner of programs, has destroyed our states capacity to improve our economic condition

    Except by outside private companies
    Privatization through starvation.

    Without pesky FOIA

  9. - Related - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:08 am:


  10. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:18 am:

    TR, the lights go out if these coal plants shut down? When did Illinois drop off the national grid?

    Maybe corporate welfare king Exelon could pick up the slack by not selling their power out of state. Illinois ratepayers are already covering the nut of all the salaries plus more at those plants just with the latest increase, not even counting the original base charges.

  11. - PublicServant - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:42 am:

    Rauner repays his debt to the Koch Brothers…

  12. - Arsenal - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:46 am:

    ==Alec Messina, director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, said the goal is to keep the financially struggling coal plants open==

    …that doesn’t seem like IEPA’s job.

  13. - ArchPundit - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:51 am:

    ===These are baseline power plants essential to daily generation. If you like the lights to go on you should be in favor of this move.

    I have a better idea. Let’s make them compete with cleaner sources and if they can’t be as clean and make money they go out of business.

  14. - NoGifts - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:54 am:

    What? If we don’t let them pollute we won’t have any electricity? I’d hold my nose and prefer to subsidize pollution control equipment than to allow tons more pollution.

  15. - Jane A. - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 12:01 pm:

    So what is the procedure? How would these changes get approved and how could they be prevented? Could lawsuits stop them?

    What can citizens do, especially those of us who remember the bad old smog and soot laden days and who like breathing the somewhat cleaner air we have now?

  16. - blue dog dem - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 12:07 pm:

    Yesterday, “pensioner” stated he did not care about anything as long as he got his pension. I don’t care about anything but running my A/C and having cheap electric.

  17. - ArchPundit - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 12:20 pm:

    ===I don’t care about anything but running my A/C and having cheap electric.

    So you prefer natural gas and solar then. Much cheaper and cleaner.

  18. - We'll See - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 12:25 pm:

    The Gov is always quick to point out that Springfield is “broken” and “ran by special interest” - I guess he needs to reinforce the points.

  19. - Ghost - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 12:29 pm:

    There was a report out that CWLP would be able to buy power cheaper then it can be produced with burning coal. If this is accurate it seems foolish to encourage use of coal by dynergy. shouldn’t the market collapse these coal plants and replace them with a cheaper competitors? Where is the free market…. seems like Rauner is more about helping the privileged in spite of market forces

  20. - Little Egype - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 1:00 pm:

    This makes me sad. The trees in our beloved Smokey Mountains are slowly dying because of acid rain, thanks to the contribution from all coal-fired power plants, including those in Illinois.

  21. - Hieronymus - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 1:26 pm:

    @Little Egypt 1:00 pm

    I very specifically remember growing up in Virginia (state) in the 1970s, seeing a plaque along Skyline Drive overlooking the Shenandoah Valley, stating that fully 5% of the smog spoiling my view came just from smokestack Chicago, about 700 miles away.

  22. - Going nuclear - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 2:56 pm:

    Dynegy has been purchasing natural gas generation, but its fleet in Illinois is mostly older coal units built in the 60s/70s. With the availability of cheaper natural gas, declining renewable energy costs and flat energy sales (thanks in part to energy efficiency), coal plants are struggling to make a profit in the regional electric markets. Weakening the air pollution rules will provide some relief, but the long term energy trends are working against coal. Large energy consumers want cleaner, more resilient distributed energy resources and the household/commercial sectors are beginning to look harder at how they use electricity and where it comes from.

  23. - BEST Dave - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 4:17 pm:

    Texas Red, Illinois has nearly 40% excess capacity. If these plants close other cheaper and cleaner plants will flood the market to fill the gap if there is one. This is bad policy but not surprising. When you start subsidizing uneconomic plants, like the Exelon nukes, this and other Dynegy subsidy efforts still to come are the predictable (and predicted) result.

  24. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 4:36 pm:

    –Texas Red, Illinois has nearly 40% excess capacity. If these plants close other cheaper and cleaner plants will flood the market to fill the gap if there is one. –

    TR likes to start with his conclusion, then make up a bunch of nonsense to rationalize it.

  25. - Illini97 - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:36 pm:

    Texas Red,

    Dynegy has closed plants in Illinois citing excess capacity. Your statement doesn’t add up.

  26. - RNUG - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:38 pm:

    == There was a report out that CWLP would be able to buy power cheaper then it can be produced with burning coal. If this is accurate … ==

    The current CWLP power cost numbers are somewhat skewed by the high cost of the wind power purchase deal the Sierra Club blackmailed CWLP in to signing … but they don’t exactly tell you that in their own report. Right now CWLP has to buy that overpriced power as part of their mix even though they don’t need it; hopefully that will change in a future contract.

    IIRC, CWLP also has either two or three natural gas generating units. Not as big as the base load coal powered units, but they can generate some of their power from natural gas. They are generally used as peaker units since they can be quickly started up and shut down, something you can’t do with a coal powrref plant.

  27. - ArchPundit - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:43 pm:

    RNUG-interesting–this seems like a significant mistake to sign long term contracts when new sources are developing and dropping rapidly.

  28. - blue dog dem - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:18 pm:

    Like Pensioner said yesterday, or at least something like this. “I don’t care about pollution, or corporate giveaways. All I want is a good dividend.”

  29. - Chicago Cynic - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:34 pm:


    This may be the first time I disagree with you, but on CWLP you’re incorrect about the cause for their losses. This is not about the wind contracts but about a utility that doesn’t actually know what they’re doing. They run units they shouldn’t when they shouldn’t and lose money in the process. They literally lose money every time they run the units but they don’t seem to understand how the power markets work. They are a disaster and Springfield consumers are paying the price. More to come on this one.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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