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Taylorville power plant moves forward

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SPRINGFIELD - Gov. Rod Blagojevich Monday approved legislation meant to clear the way for a large power plant to be built in Taylorville.

Blagojevich's signature means Nebraska-based developer Tenaska can now begin a yearlong study of the project meant to figure out how much the massive coal-fired plant will eventually cost.

The Taylorville Energy Center has proposed using a gasification technology that proponents say can cut down on pollutants. While some environmentalists disapprove, coal industry advocates see the plant as a way to use Illinois' reserves of dirty-burning coal.

''The Taylorville Energy Center's use of cutting edge clean coal gasification technology is a great example of how we can grow our economy and create good paying jobs while protecting our environment,'' said Blagojevich said in a statement.

The governor was impeached Friday, but maintains authority to sign legislation.

The plant's construction has been in the works for years, but Tenaska has been unable to get financing for the project. The legislation signed by Blagojevich essentially would require power companies to buy coal from the Taylorville plant.

But Tenaska still has a long way to go before the bulldozers begin moving dirt. After the study of the project, which could take a year or more, lawmakers have to sign off on the plan again.

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About $18 million of the report's cost will be picked up by state taxpayers, a fact some lawmakers objected to when the Senate approved the plan last year.

Tenaska Vice President Barton Ford said he hopes the company can ask state lawmakers for approval in the spring of next year.

And lawmakers could scrap the project if they eventually decide the plant will be too expensive and lead to a spike in power bills.

In addition to advancing the Taylorville Energy Center, the legislation approved Monday contained a provision that would require Ameren Corp. to pay for damages customers suffer in certain power outages.

If an outage lasts more than four hours and is deemed preventable, Ameren would have to pick up customers' costs from hotel stays or spoiled meat, for example.

Ameren supported the measure and northern Illinois utility ComEd was already operating under the same rules.

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