FutureGen, Mattoon Stand Firm in Bodman Scandal

By Melissa Chua

U.S. Representative Timothy V. Johnson made a Nov. 30 letter public from Energy Secretary Sam Bodman Thursday detailing a former promise to support FutureGen Alliance’s site selection process all the way.

The Department of Energy (DOE) broke its promise Wednesday, according to Representative Johnson. The DOE took away support from the proposed FutureGen site in Mattoon, instead announcing a “restructuring plan” to further develop and demonstrate clean coal technology that will take years to complete.

Julie Ruggiero, a spokeswoman for the DOE, said that the DOE made plans to support the building of multiple Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) clean coal power plants across the nation instead of one FutureGen plant in Mattoon.

According to the DOE and Secretary Bodman, “The restructured FutureGen approach is an all-around better investment for Americans.”

The City of Mattoon doesn’t think so. According to city officials, problems began stirring within the DOE since December 18th – the day FutureGen selected Mattoon for the power plant’s official site, which was projected to open in 2013.

“We’re very disappointed at what’s going on. We’re very disappointed at President Bush and the U.S. Department of Energy for turning their backs on us,” said Allen Gilmore, a Mattoon city administrator.

Ruggiero said that the DOE considered the restructuring plan because the cost of building the FutureGen power plan in Mattoon doubled in the past year. The cost for the original plant rose from 950 million dollars to 1.8 billion dollars – a 1.3 billion difference that America’s tax payers would have had to bear.

The restructuring plan is “based on principle; based on the interest of tax payers in the country,” Ruggiero said.

Nevertheless, the city of Mattoon is standing firm in hopes that FutureGen make its home in the city. Mattoon, exhausted, does not want to go through another lengthy application process for a stake in the IGCC plant sites for fear that DOE breaks its promises yet again.

The city anticipates that the complaint letter Representative Johnson wrote to President Bush Wenesday makes Mattoon’s perspective clear.

The correspondence with Washington may or may not smooth speculations that moves made by the DOE toward the restructuring of FutureGen are a result of political frustrations over Texas not being chosen for the FutureGen site.

“We don’t want to say anything, but it sure looks that way,” Gilmore said of the DOE possibly fiddling with FutureGen’s plans because of Texas.

The FutureGen Alliance will stand its ground for Mattoon, according to Gilmore. The Mattoon city council meeting will be held next Tuesday in the Arden D. Williams Junior Elementary school to discuss the next course of action. FutureGen is expected to root for Mattoon.

“FutureGen WILL stay in Mattoon,” said Gilmore.