MATTOON - The newly revised FutureGen coal project "does not provide the highest and best use" for the Mattoon site, Coles County's economic development organization told U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin Wednesday.

Coles Together beat by two days the deadline Durbin set earlier this week to say whether Mattoon would host the reworked project, now called FutureGen 2.0. The answer was FutureGen will have to move forward "without Coles County."

In response, Durbin's office issued a statement that said he'll ask the U.S. Department of Energy to "solicit other Illinois communities to take on the role envisioned for Mattoon."

Durbin issued the deadline on Monday, saying Coles County officials had until the end of the week to say if they wanted to host the project.

That followed last week's announcement that the emission sequestration project planned for Mattoon had been revamped. Once the planned site of a coal plant that had the prospective of zero emissions because of underground storage, Mattoon would have hosted the sequestration of those emissions but not the plant that produces them.

Coles Together President Angela Griffin said Wednesday's decision came from the organization's board of directors along with Mattoon city and community leaders. It followed input from hundreds of people that showed they were "vehemently and adamantly opposed," she said.

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Griffin said there was input and opposition from "former avid supporters" of the project.

Coles Together also spoke with business and industry leaders, labor unions, elected officials and many others, and the "overwhelming sentiment was that Coles County should not pursue FutureGen 2.0," she said.

Mattoon acting Mayor Tim Gover said he also received comments against the new plan since the announcement of the revised project.

"The citizens of Mattoon almost unanimously were opposed to the proposal," Gover said. "At the last minute, it was changed and, frankly, caught us off-guard."

DAVE FOPAY writes for the Mattoon Journal Gazette and Charleston Times-Courier, a sister Lee Enterprises publication of The Southern Illinoisan. He can be reached at dfopay@jg-tc.com or 217-238-6858.


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