Another Illinois coal plant is closing — the fifth announced in a month
One of the dirtiest coal plants in Illinois will close within the next three years, the latest sign that the lung-damaging, climate-changing source of electricity is on the way out in the United States.
Shuttering the E.D. Edwards power plant south of Peoria resolves a federal lawsuit filed six years ago by local and national environmental groups, which documented how various owners had failed to install modern pollution-control equipment.
A federal judge agreed those decisions led to dirtier air in communities near the Edwards plant and contributed to smog and soot problems in Chicago and other downwind cities.
The legal settlement announced Monday comes less than a month after Vistra Energy, the most recent owner of the Edwards plant, announced it will close four other Illinois coal plants by the end of the year.
Combined with the earlier closures of coal plants in Chicago and several downstate communities, the Vistra shutdowns promise dramatically less pollution that can cause lung damage, heart disease and respiratory ailments. The Edwards plant alone was responsible for 36 deaths and 238 asthma attacks a year, according to a study by the nonprofit Clean Air Task Force that relied on federally approved methods.
Closing Edwards also will eliminate millions of pounds of carbon dioxide the coal plant emitted each year, an amount equivalent to taking more than 337,000 cars off the road.
About 70 jobs will be lost when Edwards closes. Vistra agreed to spend $8.6 million on job training and community projects as part of the settlement.
The surprise closure of Bayou Steel Group in LaPlace this week seemed designed to duck the company’s obligations to its workers, St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom said Wednesday, as she and other officials began dealing with the fallout from the steel mill’s sudden shuttering.
During a press conference in the St. John Parish Council chambers, Robottom and union representatives said they felt they had been misled by Bayou Steel’s owners about its financial health and prospects, as well as about its pledges to the nearly 400 workers at the 40-year-old steel mill.
“We’re disappointed for a company that has been in our parish this long, and there are employees, some of whom have worked there in excess of 30 years, who were caught off guard,” said Robottom.
The machinists, electricians and other workers at the mill were told by managers Monday morning that Bayou Steel was closing and they would be losing their jobs.
On Tuesday, the parent company of Bayou Steel Group filed for bankruptcy protection. In the filing signed by President and Chief Operating Officer Alton Davis, the company, which is controlled by a Connecticut private equity firm, said it had as much as $100 million in outstanding debts and less than $50,000 in assets.
In addition to layoffs for 376 workers at its LaPlace location — and 72 more at its Harriman, Tennessee, operations — the company also has left more than 2,000 unsecured creditors holding the bag, according to the company’s Chapter 11 filing in Delaware.