According to documents uncovered by the Environmental Law & Policy Center through Freedom of Information Act requests and other sources, between November 2016 and July 2017 Governor Rauner’s Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and Dynegy, a Houston-based coal plant operator met behind closed doors to rewrite Illinois clean air standards. The proposed rewrite of the state’s multipollutant standard would lock in levels of dangerous sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide in perpetuity and allow Dynegy to create downstate pollution hotspots by burning more coal at its dirtiest, cheapest coal plants.
Through analysis of the rule change sent from Dynegy to Bruce Rauner’s IEPA, the company’s strategy becomes clear:
- Close some of its Central and Southern Illinois coal plants that are not economically viable in the competitive electricity market
- Keep running some of its other coal plants, but delay installing modern pollution control equipment that is important to avoid harms to public health and environmental quality in Illinois communities.
On January 17, 2018, ELPC joined advocates from across Illinois to testify before the Pollution Control Board against this backdoor Dynegy bailout. “The facts are clear. This is a bailout for an out-of-state coal company that Illinois families will pay for through rising electric bills and poorer lung health. It should be rejected.”
About a decade ago, ELPC worked with allies, coal plant operators and the IEPA to develop the multi-pollutant standard (MPS) to slash pollution from mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide from Illinois coal plants. These pollutants have dangerous implications for human health. Mercury is a neurotoxin that harms childhood development and poisons fish. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide cause smog and acid rain, damage lungs and trigger cardiovascular damage.
Dynegy knew about its environmental compliance responsibilities long ago. The Illinois clean air standards were negotiated and approved in 2007, and they provided Dynegy and other coal plant owners a glide path for cleanup actions. None of these Dynegy coal plants should be run like “old Chevy beaters” without installing effective modern pollution control equipment.
The Chicago Tribune also published a front-page report on this effort.