Two coal-fueled power plants in Illinois are going off coal. One, in Romeoville, is closing entirely, and one in Joliet is being converted to natural gas. This will bring the number of coal-burning power plants in Illinois down to 16 from 22 a decade ago. Plants in Pekin and Waukegan will stay on coal, but with pollution control installed. Brice Nilles of the Sierra Club is not impressed. “They’re really the most rudimentary controls they could come up with to get them past the pending deadline under state law that they do something, take a modest step to cut some of their pollution over the next 12 months,” he said.
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Nilles says the air quality will improve a lot near the plants that stop burning coal, less so near the plants that get pollution control. The company, New Jersey-based NRG, acquired these plants in April and is spending $567 million to reduce carbon dioxide emission by 16 million tons a year by 2020. The move in Romeoville will eliminate 250 jobs, but Nilles says there’s potential for economic growth once the company stops buying out-of-state coal. He says the company should invest in wind and solar energy, which will create jobs locally.