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Meeting Planned To Discuss Southeast Side Coal Plant

CHICAGO (WBBM/CBS) -- Southeast Side residents plan to gather for a town hall meeting Thursday night to discuss a controversial plan that would put a new energy plant in their neighborhood.

A new coal gasification plant is planned for a region that has had more than its share of pollution over the past 100 years, and residents are concerned about what the plant would mean for them.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780's Bernie Tafoya reports


Leucadia National would like to put the plant on 116th Street and Burley Avenue, the site of the old Republic Steel plant.

According to Hoyt Hudson of Eco-Industrial Development, which is behind the plant, the new facility would turn dirty coal into clean synthetic natural gas.

Judy Lihota of the Calumet Ecological Park Association is among those who are concerned and is "questioning the pollution effects the plant may have on the community".

But Hudson says plant emissions would be similar in amount to the pollution put out by the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Chicago or Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Hudson says the plant would generate 2,300 jobs in the Chicago area, 500 coal mining jobs downstate and billions of dollars in tax revenues.

The Sierra Club opposes the plant. Spokeswoman Becki Clayburn calls it "very risky".

Several area residents are also against the plant, and a recent Chicago Tribune editorial called the project "a raw deal" for some of the gas companies and said it was "rammed through the House with scant review."

The state Genearl Assembly voted to require utilities to buy synthetic gas from the plant for 30 years. The bill sits on Governor Quinn's desk.

Plans would move ahead for the plant if the governor signs the legislation. Some neighbors in the area have called on him to veto it.

The development company met with community and business leaders on Tuesday but was not invited to a town hall meeting Thursday night at The Zone, on 117th Street and Avenue O at 6:30 p.m.

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