FILE - Illinois State Sen. Sue Rezin

Illinois Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris,

The owner of a number of coal-fired plants wants Illinois lawmakers to take action after the company announced it plans to close four plants. 

Vistra Energy announced Wednesday it will close four facilities in Central Illinois. The company cited the Illinois Pollution Control Board’s June decision requiring it to shut down two gigawatts worth of coal-produced energy facilities by 2020. 

The company's Hennepin facility is in State Sen. Sue Rezin district. 

“Since we have many people in the area that are losing their jobs, we’ll hopefully be able to retrain them and provide jobs for them,” the Republican from Morris said.

Before the plants can cease production, the company must get approval from regulators to ensure there’s no lack of power production.

“There’s a process where they have to make sure that, if a plant decides to decommission, that there’s sufficient baseloading and you don’t have rolling brownouts,” Rezin said.

In the company's announcement, Vistra called on the Illinois General Assembly to enact a law that would allow it to convert parts of its facilities to store energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar. No such bills had been filed as of Thursday. 

The four plants slated for closure employ about 300 people.

Peoria-area lawmakers Dave Koehler and Michael Unes both released statements lamenting the local job losses at the nearby Duck Creek facility.

“I am incredibly saddened by the announcement that Duck Creek will close,” Koehler said. “The fact is the current business market for coal-based energy is simply no longer sustainable. As we transition to an energy economy that focuses on limiting emissions, we must be proactive in helping those communities that this will adversely affect.”

Unes said the passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016 was partly responsible for the closures. 

“It’s unfortunate that our former Governor and legislative leaders pushed a bill that causes the taxpayers of Illinois to subsidize other energy plants in Illinois while self-sufficient plants, like Duck Creek, are shuttered,” he said. “I’ve had many conversations with hard-core environmentalists who will not be happy until every coal plant is closed. Because of their unrealistic and uncompromising agenda, our neighbors are unemployed and good jobs are lost in an area that needs them desperately.”

Bunker Hill Democrat Andy Manar said he was upset that the board allowed Vistra to close plants that emitted less pollution. This is because they had filters, known as scrubbers, on them which meant higher costs to operate but less pollution. 

“Shame on the Pollution Control Board for not doing its homework and allowing this to happen,” he said. “If power plants are to be closed, the worst polluters should be closed first.”

Staff Reporter

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.