Save the Havana Power Station

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This petition is in regards to the announced retirement of the Havana, Illinois Power Station. Vistra Energy plans to retire the plant before the end of the year. Obviously, there is much concern throughout our city, county, and surrounding counties. According to numbers provided by Vistra, 76 families will now be displaced due to the closure. This does not include sub contractors, railroad, and other entities that supply products to the plant. These are well paying jobs, the majority of these workers will not be able to find equal employment in our community. The community itself also suffers. The school system, hospital, local fire department, etc. all benefit from our power station. The power station has supported several generations of families and there is a sense of pride also lost.

While we are not naïve in thinking coal generation would last forever, the way the retirement was decided and handled is very peculiar. Vistra now owns 8 coal fired power stations in Illinois. Vistra uses the Illinois Multi Pollutant Standard as the motive for retiring the 4 stations saying they are required to reduce their megawattage by 2,000 prior to the end of 2019. The Illinois Multi Pollutant Standard, as I understand it, is an effort to reduce emissions to better our health outcomes. The troubling part for our community and the others affected is the way that Vistra was allowed to decide which power stations to retire. Several years ago the prior owners of the Havana Power Station invested heavily in the plant by adding scrubbers and baghouses to reduce emissions and meet pollutions standards. Similar projects also took place at, at least, 2 of the other sites now scheduled for retirement. The 4 power stations that are allowed to continue generating power do not have these emissions controls and continue to be “dirty” plants. Essentially, these 3 power stations, Havana included, did what needed to be done to lower emissions and become cleaner plants. The downside of these added emission controls is the increased cost to operate them. When the Illinois MPS new standards were announced, they allowed Vistra to reduce their overall emissions instead of individually selecting the dirtiest plants for retirement. 

Vistra has essentially chose to maximize its profits by turning its back on those power stations that did the right thing and invested heavily in emission controls. The 4 power stations were chosen because they cost the most to operate. It was never about improving health outcomes or “saving our environment.” It seems a bit ironic that the MPS is in place to control emissions and pollution yet allows clean power stations to close and dirty, polluting, stations to remain open, which I’m sure you would agree, is absurd. 

At the meeting in Havana, Illinois last week the Vistra representative, Brad Watson, continued to promote and ask for support for the Illinois Coal to Solar and Energy Storage Act as an alternative and replacement of our power station. However, when pressed on the issue, Mr. Watson fell short of guaranteeing Havana would be a chosen site. Moreover, the CEO of Vistra Energy, Curt Morgan, said recently to his stakeholders there is less than a 50% chance of that legislation passing. Mr. Waston had also previously mentioned in several meetings that regardless of the MPS rule all 8 plants would close by 2030. When asked yesterday, Mr. Watson backed off of that message and led us to believe the remaining 4 are not on a similar timetable.

In closing, Havana, Illinois faces an uphill battle with the decision to close this plant. The residents within the region don’t believe this was truly the best response to the MPS ruling. A couple of questions that we all have: What, if anything, was done to curb this poor decision? What, if anything, can be done while the Havana Power Station is still operable to save it? Why, if Illinois truly cared about the environment, would they allow clean plants with emission controls to close and dirty plants to remain open? A headline from the Chicago Tribune recently shows that the decision is confusing to everyone across the state, “A Texas company is closing 4 Illinois coal plants but plans to keep some of its dirtiest units running.” If the plant closure continues as planned it will have devastating implications to our region.