The state of Illinois is throwing millions of taxpayer dollars at another coal-to-gas plant just two years after a similar project ended in failure.
The Coal Development Fund has so far given Homeland Fuels two grants totaling $4.25 million in taxpayer dollars. The first grant was awarded in 2013 to fund a study for the proposed “Coal to Diesel Pilot Project” next to their coal supplier, which will apparently be a nearby Chris Cline-owned mine in central Illinois. The company moved addresses from Hillsboro to Litchfield before receiving a second grant for $3,500,000. There's no indication of how the plant would limit their global warming emissions or other environmental impacts.
Coal is king of corporate welfare in Illinois with a portion of the state energy tax dedicated to subsidizing the industry. The Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity grant tracker shows the agency gave nearly $23 million to support coal during the 2014 fiscal year. That doesn't include additional state and local tax breaks. This happened during a state budget crisis that prompted cuts to social services and public employee pensions.
Handing out millions in taxpayer funds with few questions asked means there's little risk for companies to begin far-fetched projects that may never be completed. That was the case with a coal-to-gas plant that failed in 2012.
A coal to synthetic natural gas conversion plant proposed by Power Holdings received millions in state grants and additional subsidy legislation signed by Governor Quinn. After failing to find additional investors, the company was forced to admit the market wouldn't support their project and gave up.
Power Holdings will face no consequences or have to pay back a single dollar of the millions they wasted on a risky, unrealistic project. It's a routine result of Illinois operating a grant program with little transparency or oversight to benefit a single industry.
Despite claiming to be a leader on climate change, Governor Pat Quinn has failed to advocate cutting coal subsidies. He dramatically expanded industry welfare instead by signing two bills to exempt coal mining equipment from the state sales tax during a budget crisis. The six figures in campaign contributions Quinn has taken from Chris Cline coal companies over the years may have something to do with his reluctance to act on climate.
Downstate Illinois will prosper by creating diverse economies with green jobs. Depending on fossil fuel subsidies to provide false hope of reviving coal jobs will only send more money and better opportunities down the drain.