NEWTON — The Illinois Pollution Control Board agreed Thursday to give a Texas company extra time to install pollution controls at five Illinois coal-fired power plants, saying that requiring the upgrades sooner would pose an economic hardship.
Houston-based Dynegy Inc., which still must acquire the plants from Ameren Corp., now has until 2020 to install state-mandated soot controls. It also must continue to burn only low-sulfur coal at the three plants that don't yet have "scrubbers" to remove the pollutants, and close down an operating unit at one of the plants as soon as possible.
The panel voted 3-1 to approve the order, and would not comment afterward. Board Chairwoman Deanna Glosser cast the only dissenting vote, saying she did not believe the company demonstrated an economic hardship. Her opinion would be posted on the board's website by Monday, an aide said.
Dynegy spokeswoman Katy Sullivan said the acquisition from St. Louis-based Ameren provided the best future for the plants, their employees and the communities in which they're located, and should be completed next month.
"We believe we can operate these facilities particularly cost effectively because of the similarities to" the four coal-fired plants Dynegy already owns in Illinois, she said.
Ameren CEO Thomas Voss said the company now will focus on its rate-regulated electric, natural gas and transmission operations.
Environmental groups opposed the waiver, saying the delay would hurt public health and that Dynegy knew the pollution controls were needed when it agreed to acquire the plants.
"Delaying these protections ... comes at a high cost to Illinois families and communities," said Andrew Armstrong, a staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center.
But local officials in many of the towns where the plants are located supported Dynegy's request.