Closing coal plants cost jobs

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HILLSBORO, Ill. (WCIA) — Hundreds of employees across downstate and central Illinois learned they are losing their jobs.

The energy giant Vistra announced that it will be shuttering four of their eight coal plants in the state.

Power plants in Coffeen, Havana, Canton and Hennepin are closing by the end of the year. 

Mike Homa has been working at the Coffeen coal plant for 26 years.

“You get down a little bit, you have a good paying job and you’ve been there for a lot of years and you work for a good company,” Homa said. “Then the rug is pulled out from underneath you.”

The Coffeen power plant has been a major economic driver for montgomery county for 54 years. It was named the cleanest coal plant in the world in 2016. Homa can’t imagine his community without it.

“That is going to be the hard part,” Homa said. “It is definitely going to be harmful to the economy. The trickle down effect is going to go down to your gas station and your grocery stores. I mean there were 80 plus good jobs there.”

 Vistra executives met with community leaders in Hillsboro Thursday morning to discuss the next step for the communities and its people.

“Under Dynegy and also our company, we had certainly informed community stakeholders and legislators that the Coffeen Unit was financially challenged,” Brad Watson, Senior Director of Community Affairs at Vistra, said.” It was losing money. We had done that for a number of years.”

None of the four plants being closed down were making a profit.

Watson said closing the plants was inevitable as the market transitions to renewable sources of energy.

Senator Andy Manar doesn’t buy that. He believes that the company is too focused on its bottom line.

“It makes zero sense to me that through this chain of events with Vistra this move would come at this period of time,” Manar said. “Unless this was the intention when the plants were purchased.”

The four plants could be shut down by the first half of November, but they will be retired by the start of the new year.

Finding these workers new jobs will be a statewide effort. Governor Pritzker ordered his agency heads to work on creating short term opportunities with the state’s new infrastructure plan.

“The Governor’s primary concerns are to support workers at these locations and assist the impacted communities,” A spokesperson for the Governor said in a statement. “In particular, the Governor directed agency heads to focus on developing potential short-term opportunities for workers connected to work on the state’s major infrastructure investments, as well as addressing broader impacts and ripple effects in these communities.”

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