June 20, 2019
CHICAGO – Today, the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) approved a rulemaking initiated in 2017 under the Rauner Administration that allows Vistra Energy, the Texas-based owner of Illinois largest coal plant fleet, greater flexibility to operate its plants with less stringent, state pollution standards. Since proposed, the revisions to one of Illinois’ signature air pollution standards, known as the Multi-Pollutant Standard (MPS), generated significant public opposition across the state and drew greater speculation on the close ties Rauner’s IEPA Director had with polluting industries though important improvements were made to the original proposal by both the IPCB and new IEPA leadership under the Pritzker Administration, environmental and community groups continue to seek stronger standards.
The new emissions caps change the existing standards based on emissions rates to a total tonnage standard which environmental and community advocates argue is less protective and will allow Vistra to shutter plants with pollution controls while continuing to operate its dirtiest plants without installing modern pollution controls. Those advocates contend that this could result in some communities seeing greater pollution from the plants that remain open and continue to operate without modern pollution controls. Notable improvements in the final approved proposal include lower emissions caps than originally proposed by Rauner’s IEPA, cap reductions if Vistra seeks to shutter or sell power plants, and a requirement to retire 2,000 MWs of its Illinois coal generation by the end of 2019.
The approval comes on the heels of yesterday’s federal rollback of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. The alternative plan, dubbed the “Dirty Power Plan” by advocates, is little more than a giveaway to the coal industry. With rollbacks at the federal level, state action becomes all the more important and advocates urge the Pritzker administration to take stronger action.
In response to the IPCB’s decision, the Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois Peoples’ Action, Metro East Green Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Illinois Sierra Club, Respiratory Health Association, Prairie Rivers Network, and Union of Concerned Scientists issued the following joint statement:
“We’re pleased to see that important improvements to this rulemaking were won today by the thousands of Illinois residents who spoke out in opposition to this ill-conceived rule from the Rauner Administration and Vistra Energy. However, as President Trump continues to rollback federal environmental protections, Illinois should be leading with far more aggressive pollution standards on power plants instead of granting greater flexibility to a Texas fossil fuel corporation.
“We welcome Vistra Energy’s commitment to retire some of its Illinois plants–that it has said for years were likely to retire–but the new standards still allow Vistra to close plants with modern pollution controls and continue running its dirtiest plants without any modern upgrades which will leave frontline communities in Illinois at risk.
“As these out-of-state coal corporations continue to demand coal bailouts from state regulators and legislators, it’s critical that the Pritzker Administration and Illinois officials step up with stronger leadership to deliver more aggressive pollution reductions from aging power plants and plans to invest in Illinois coal workers and communities that will inevitably be left behind by these out-of-state corporations.”