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Letter to President George W. Bush, Re: Reconsider the Department of Energy's Decision to Abandon FutureGen


Location: Washington, DC

Durbin, Johnson, Illinois Delegation Seek Bush Review of FutureGen

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and Representative Timothy V. Johnson, and the entire Illinois Congressional Delegation today appealed to President Bush to reconsider the Department of Energy's decision to abandon FutureGen.

"Five years ago, the President assured us that the final decision on FutureGen would be based on science, not politics -- and that's the basis by which Mattoon was chosen," said Durbin. "Despite the confusing and contradictory positions taken by the Department of Energy, today we are urging the President to stand by his word and support FutureGen in Mattoon."

"We speak with one voice, across both aisles, across the breadth of this rich state, to appeal to the President to correct the misguided and misinformed course that the DOE has attempted to take this important project," Rep. Johnson said. "This is in the service of not only the people of Illinois, but the people of this country, the cause of clean energy and the cause of energy independence."

Other members signing on to today's letter include Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), Representatives Bobby Rush (D-IL), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), Peter Roskam (D-IL), Danny Davis (D-IL), Melissa Bean (D-IL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Jerry Weller (R-IL), Jerry Costello (R-IL), Judy Biggert (R-IL), Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Don Manzullo (R-IL), Phil Hare (D-IL), Ray LaHood (R-IL) and John Shimkus (R-IL).

Text of the letter appears below:

February 13, 2008

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

During the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's hearing to discuss the FY 2009 Department of Energy (DOE) Budget on February 7, 2008, Secretary Samuel Bodman admitted he made a mistake when he wrote to members of the Illinois Delegation on November 30, 2007, indicating that the FutureGen Project was moving forward as planned.

Secretary Bodman's message that DOE was "diligently working to complete the process and issue the Record of Decision in a timeframe that supports FutureGen site selection by the end of December 2007," while encouraging at the time, did nothing but create false hope for the communities involved in this project. Less than three weeks later, after Mattoon, Illinois was selected as the best site for FutureGen, he decided to pull the plug on this important investment which you first proposed back in 2003.

In addition, it was revealed earlier this week that DOE Undersecretary C.H. "Bud" Albright made a disparaging comment about our state. The remark, that DOE wasn't interested in "building Disneyland in some swamp in Illinois," only added insult to injury after citizens in Illinois learned that their government no longer backed this project. While we understand that Mr. Albright apologized, the poor handling of DOE's decision on FutureGen and the insensitive comments about Illinois cannot be forgotten just because he said he was sorry.

Mr. President, the communities and states that competed for this project expended thousands of hours and untold sums of money in good faith that the Administration's commitment to this scientifically worthy project would be fulfilled. Please do not allow their work, and this opportunity, to be wasted.

The demonstrated missteps by DOE's highest representatives further beg for a reconsideration of their misplaced decision to abandon FutureGen. There is an urgent need to develop near-zero emissions coal technologies and FutureGen is ahead of any other project involving carbon capture and sequestration. Under this new proposed approach, there are no guarantees that project costs will not skyrocket and starting from scratch will delay this process even further, which we feel is not in the best interest of the country's energy future.

These two examples reveal, at worst incompetence and at best, insensitivity on the part of DOE. This about-face on FutureGen has caused many folks in Illinois to lose faith in their government. Mr. President, you have the power to restore their sense of belief and in light of these events, we urge you to reverse course, instruct DOE to release the Record of Decision, and pledge support for FutureGen in Mattoon, Illinois.

Dick Durbin
U.S. Senator

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