Big Coal Lobby Gets Big Taxpayer Payout

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CommonDreams.org

Big Coal Lobby Gets Big Taxpayer Payout

Utility Giant Rake in $1 Billion to Create FutureGen Toxic Dump

Party down, Big Coal lobbyists! Give those Ameren utility dudes a raise.

After investing nearly $800,000 in political contributions, Big Coal utility giant Ameren just got confirmation that a pay off check for nearly $1 billion is in the mail, courtesy of US taxpayers.

Rock on, Energy Secretary Steven Chu!

All Ameren has to do is kinda sorta maybe refashion one of its coal-ash spewing World War II-era coal-fired and oil-burning plants into FutureGen 2.0--an infeasible, prohibitively expensive, accident and leak-prone, and chimerical scheme of oxy-combustion technology that will sorta kinda maybe capture, compress, pump and dump CO2 into Illinois' aquifers and porous caverns.

Don't worry: The company helping Ameren built the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, so they're good to go.

And get this: Ameren is already sending its boys over to Illinois to soak the state's taxpayers for a probable hike in utility rakes to cover any costs not bankrolled by the federal "clean coal" welfare program.

As business leaders in Mattoon, Illinois noted recently, after their town got shafted on the FUTUREGEN rollercoaster, they even question why anyone wants to "become the 'dumping' ground for other people's waste."

Good question. The answer, according to US Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is a handful of jobs. After receiving over $135,000 in political contributions from Ameren and other Big Coal lobbyists, Durbin can now crow that he pulled in $1 billion in US taxpayer funds from the federal stimulus to create approximately "500 jobs, pipeline construction would add another 275, and there would be 75 new permanent jobs."

Do the math: Those are some expensive government-funded and subsidized jobs.

Too bad the cancer-plagued farmers contaminated by coal slurry in nearby Illinois communities never received such compensation.

Too bad nearby farmers are now losing their ancestral farm houses and fertile rows of corn to longwall mining and more coal slurry is slated for their aquifers.

Too bad Illinois coal miners who are dying daily from black lung disease can't get a little more of this pork.

FutureGen 2.0 is not even scheduled to sorta kinda operate on a commercial scale for a decade, so we don't even need to note the issue of peak coal and FutureGen's increased coal production needs.

No, today is party day for Big Coal and it utility partners, and Big Coal-bankrolled politicians like US. Sen. Dick Durbin.

Jeff Biggers

Jeff Biggers is the author of The United States of Appalachia, and more recently, Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland (The Nation/Basic Books). Follow him on twitter: @JeffRBiggers

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