Chicago rejects coal-to-gas plant

Illinois Governor, Pat Quinn, exercised his veto power late on Friday to reject a bill that would have forced natural gas utilities across the state to acquire synthetic gas, from a plant to be built on the southeast side of Chicago, at prices double the current market rate for the next 30 years.

The planned facility is intended to take advantage of the gasification process that turns coal into a synthetic gas to be used by utility companies to produce electricity that would go to consumers.

In his veto message, as published by Chicago Business, Quinn said the circumstances had changed since he signed the original authorization bill into law, :

"Our country is in the midst of a natural gas boom, which is coupled with dramatically decreasing demand. As a result, current natural gas prices are at historic lows, and many indicators suggest prices will remain low for years to come. These new facts require further scrutiny and a revisiting of the economics of this 30-year project. This is not a fair deal for ratepayers. We can do better."

The project faced firm disapproval from the business community, as well as environmental and consumer protection groups. Influential newspapers such as The Sun-Times and The Tribune both wrote editorials attacking the deal.

Quinn was on the news again Monday morning, as he offered his open support and a $10,000 donation to workers striking outside a Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) plant south of Chicago.

Analysts interpreted his support to the labour dispute, already in its fourth month, as a way to get back at a company whose chief executive has been a harsh critic of the Governor’s administration. The earth-moving equipment maker has reportedly attacked Quinn’s handling of the Illinois economy.

AP reports  Illinois Governor wasn't worried about how Caterpillar would view his gesture to the picketers. Meanwhile, the company declined to comment on the visit.