CHICAGO - Today, New Jersey-based power producer NRG Energy announced its plan to reduce pollution from its fleet of aging Illinois coal-fired power plants. NRG will cease burning coal at one generating unit at the Will County plant in Romeoville and at its Joliet 29 and 9 coal plants, but continue to run the Joliet plants as peaking natural gas units. NRG will continue to burn coal at its Waukegan plant north of Chicago and at its Powerton plant in central Illinois with interim pollution control technology installed, and at a unit in Will County without any environmental upgrades.
NRG acquired the five Illinois coal-fired power plants, along with other wind and natural gas assets, from bankrupt Midwest Generation and Edison Mission Energy in March 2014. The coal plants have operated for decades without modern pollution controls, and today are responsible for many documented air and water pollution violations along with a combined 125 deaths, 196 heart attacks and 2,123 asthma attacks every year, according the Clean Air Task Force.
The Joliet 9 and 29 plants are the 173rd and 174th coal-fired power plants announced to cease burning coal since 2010.
“There is good news and bad news in today’s announcement. NRG is taking important steps to phase out a third of its Illinois coal fleet, but it failed to announce any new investments in clean energy or long-term plan for the future. Phasing out coal will reduce dangerous pollution fleet wide, but that is little solace for the residents who will still be living next to polluting coal plants. For a company that describes itself as a trailblazing power producer, we were hoping and expecting a lot more vision, innovation and forward-thinking in NRG’s approach to its Illinois operations.
“NRG says it advocates for individuals having the power to control their energy destiny, yet today it disregarded the chorus of individuals and organizations in Waukegan who have repeatedly called on the company to build a responsible transition away from coal to clean energy in their lakefront community.
“With a booming clean energy economy that already employs nearly 100,000 residents, NRG will find no better place than Illinois to make smart clean energy investments. NRG doesn’t have to trade coal for natural gas, another expensive and imported fossil fuel that pollutes Illinois’ air. The company should instead shape the its future around clean energy choices that bring safe, family-sustaining and lasting jobs to Illinois.
“Coal is a dirty relic of the past, and NRG’s CEO David Crane knows that we’re going to have to leave it there - in the past - if we hope to adequately address dangerous climate disruption. After decades of unsafe air and high rates of asthma brought on by pollution, Illinois communities deserve solutions. Responsibly phasing out coal and investing in clean energy are the solutions we’ll push NRG to embrace in order to benefit Illinois’ health and economy.”