UPDATE: NRG offers this clarification about the closings, the job losses and the plan for the other units in the area:
"Most importantly, we DID NOT announce that we’re closing down the Romeoville 'plant' – we announced that we are ceasing operations of one of two coal units by April of 2015. The other unit, unit 4, will remain in service as long as it complies with all applicable environmental laws and regulation."
Also your headline sounds as though the closing of one unit at Romeoville will eliminate 250 jobs," David Gaier, Spokesman and Director of NRG Communications, said. "That is not the case. Those headcount reductions are across all four plants, over 2 years."
ROMEOVILLE - New Jersey-based NRG Energy Inc. announced Thursday it will close its coal-fired plant in Romeoville, convert its plant in Joliet to natural gas and install emissions control technology at plants in Pekin and Waukegan, eliminating 250 jobs.
The company took over the four Illinois plants in April when it acquired the bankrupt Edison Mission Energy in March 2014. The company says the $550 million changes will reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions by at least 16 million tons annually by 2020.
But all that doesn't make the Sierra Club happy.
“There is good news and bad news in today’s announcement. NRG is taking important steps to phase out a third of its Illinois coal fleet, but it failed to announce any new investments in clean energy or long-term plan for the future," Bruce Nilles, Senior Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign said in a statement.
"Phasing out coal will reduce dangerous pollution fleet wide, but that is little solace for the residents who will still be living next to polluting coal plants. For a company that describes itself as a trailblazing power producer, we were hoping and expecting a lot more vision, innovation and forward-thinking in NRG’s approach to its Illinois operations."
Clean energy is a booming industry, Nilles said, and that's where jobs are growing. Coal is from the past and it's dirty, he said.
“Coal is a dirty relic of the past, and NRG’s CEO David Crane knows that we’re going to have to leave it there - in the past - if we hope to adequately address dangerous climate disruption," Nilles said. "After decades of unsafe air and high rates of asthma brought on by pollution, Illinois communities deserve solutions. Responsibly phasing out coal and investing in clean energy are the solutions we’ll push NRG to embrace in order to benefit Illinois’ health and economy.”
A Lockport based environmental group also voiced protest when NRG bought the plants earlier this year.
“NRG Energy needs to know that community members are not going to allow these plants to continue to pollute our communities unchecked,” CARE director Ellen Rendulich told the Times Weekly last fall. “We would like the company to establish a clear plan for their plants that will allow just transitions for the workers and include retirement dates so that we can chart a cleaner, healthier future for our families.”
NRG's Joliet 9 and 29 plants are the 173rd and 174th coal-fired power plants announced to cease burning coal since 2010.