Cairo Association of Teachers - Newsletter

CAT Tracks for June 12, 2007

From the June 12th Southern Illinoisan...

Southernmost counties get update on planned projects


ULLIN - With three proposed production plants in the works, the future of Illinois' southernmost counties could be fueled by alternative energy sources.

Nearly 200 residents and community leaders turned out Monday night for an update on the proposed coal gasification plant, biodiesel plant and ethanol plant, as well as other progress being made in the Southernmost Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone, which includes Pulaski and Alexander counties and portions of Johnson County.

The SIDEZ region update meeting was held at Shawnee Community College in Ullin.

"The future looks promising," said Donna Raynalds, SIDEZ executive director. "We feel very hopeful about these projects. Our rural area lends itself to that type of development. We also have good infrastructure and are situated between two major rivers. We have rail service and interstates nearby. All in all, this is a prime area for any sort of development."

Bill Capie of Clean Coal Power Resources said plans for the construction of a $3.4 billion coal gasification plant are moving along. The coal-to-liquid project would be located in Alexander County.

"We would use 7 million tons of coal per year to make 50,000 barrels of clean-burning liquid fuel per day," he said.

Phase one of the project would take two years to construct and provide 1,000 construction jobs, with 750 permanent jobs available once the plant is operational.

"This project is for real," Capie said. "We're getting closer but we still have a lot of obstacles to overcome."

For instance, he said, issues with the airport in Cairo could spell trouble for the project.

Because the plant would have several tall towers, "The height restrictions and insurance risks require airport closure, but the FAA and Illinois Department of Transportation are unwilling to close the facility," he said.

The project must also successfully complete the permitting process. Capie said he hopes to apply for an air permit by July 1.

Thirty full-time jobs will be created at a planned biodiesel plant. Renewable Energy Group plans to build the plant in Cairo, adjacent to a plant owned by Bunge North America, one of the project's financial partners, said Mike Eickhoff, who represented the energy group at the SIDEZ meeting.

Eickhoff said the project represents a $100 million investment in the region. Construction could start in the third quarter of this year, he said.

A $90 million ethanol plant planned for Pulaski County also continues to move forward, said Kevin Ulrich, spokesman for MOR Energy. The plant could produce 100 million gallons of ethanol annually and create at least 80 jobs. The lead investor of MOR Energy is Curt Jones, a Southern Illinois University Carbondale graduate and president and founder of Dippin' Dots.

"We continue to jump through hurdles, but I am very pleased to state that we are making progress," Ulrich said. "Each day inches us closer to bringing hundreds of construction jobs to the region. Progress is being made."

Also speaking at SIDEZ region update was Theresa Monzulla, who with her husband, Bruce, purchased The Gambit Golf Club in Vienna last October. The couple has already made many changes, she said, and more are planned.

New additions at The Gambit include the 19th Hole Bar and Grill and fine dining at Christophe's at The Gambit. Renovation of The Gambit Inn should be completed this fall.

"Our ultimate goal is home development. We want to build a gated community with private homes, assisted living and rental cabins," she said.

A resource fair preceded the region update meeting. Representatives from local, state and federal organizations were available to talk to community leaders and residents about resources available to help meet needs of communities.