Lake County lawmakers ask energy company for Waukegan coal plant answers

Nine state legislators and 18 Lake County Board members signed their names to a letter this week calling on New Jersey-based NRG Energy Inc. to “provide our communities with certainty on a long-term plan” for the Waukegan coal-fired power plant, which the company acquired earlier this year.

“We would like to welcome NRG Energy to Lake County,” the July 9 letter to NRG President David Crane states. “As public officials, we are committed to helping grow a vibrant and just economy here in our county. We are encouraged that your company has taken exciting steps toward developing renewable energy across the country.

“We do want to express our concern about the uncertain financial future of the Waukegan coal plant, and we believe it is in our constituents’ best interests for us to work proactively and responsibly to ensure a just transition for the workers at the plant, the tax base, as well as remediation and reuse of the lakefront site should the determination be made to close the plant.”

Release of the letter was organized by the Sierra Club, which teamed with Clean Power Lake County to issue a similar call for information at a July 1 demonstration in downtown Waukegan.

NRG took possession of the Waukegan plant on April 1 as part of a March 2014 purchase of Edison Mission Energy. Midwest Generation, an Edison offshoot, had operated the lakefront facility for the past 15 years.

Contacted for a response to the letter, NRG spokesman David Gaier referred to a statement released last week following the rally, in which he said that the company is “currently evaluating our investment options regarding our Illinois fleet,” adding that “we believe (the Sierra Club) can understand that we haven’t completed the analysis of our Illinois assets.”

While offering to collaborate in the evaluation process, the officials signing this week’s letter also called on the company to “recognize the lifetime of (the plant’s) operations are limited” and to focus on any future remediation that will be needed if the plant is closed.

“The community of Waukegan has experienced abrupt closures of industries on its lakefront in the past,” the letter states. “By starting this conversation early, and committing meaningfully to it, we are hopeful that we can work together to ensure a more thoughtful approach to a transition at the Waukegan plant.

“We commend NRG Energy’s commitment to invest in clean, renewable energy, and as strong supporters of renewable energy, we hope that we can also explore potential opportunities in clean energy investments in Lake County that can both create local jobs and expand your business operations.”

Legislators signing the letter included state senators Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake; Terry Link, D-Waukegan; and Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield. Also signing their names were state representatives Scott Drury, D-Highwood; Sheri Jesiel, R-Winthrop Harbor; Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan; Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook; Carol Sente, D-Vernon Hills; and Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake.

Lake County Board members included Carol Calabresa of Libertyville, Pat Carey of Grayslake, Steve Carlson of Grandwood Park, Bonnie Thompson Carter of Ingleside, Mary Ross Cunningham of Waukegan, Bill Durkin of Waukegan, Sandra Hart of Lake Bluff, Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor of Vernon Hills, Ann B. Maine of Lincolnshire, Steven W. Mandel of Highland Park, Audrey Nixon of North Chicago, Diana O’Kelly of Mundelein, Brent Paxton of Zion, David Stolman of Buffalo Grove, Craig Taylor of Lake Zurich, Mike Rummel of Lake Forest, Tom Weber of Lake Villa and Terry Wilke of Round Lake Beach.

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