Employees Last Day Was Nov. 4 At Coffeen

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The 54-year-old plant that three years ago was honored as the cleanest coal-fueled power generator in the world was officially retired on Nov. 1.

During a conference call on Thursday, Nov. 7, senior director of community affairs Brad Watson of Texas-based Vistra Energy said that the last day of work for the 95 employees who had worked at Coffeen Power Station was Monday, Nov. 4, but they will continue to be paid through the end of the month.

Union employees are eligible for up to $3,000 in retraining benefits per their contract, Watson said, plus possible Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) retraining benefits.  The company had offered outplacement help to employees in groups and individually beginning in October, he added.

"The most important thing now is the plant is shut down safely," Watson said, outlining processes such as draining fluids and locking down elevators.  Two full-time employees remain at the plant working on those jobs.

The company will meet with county officials on Monday, Nov. 18, to begin negotiating a "payments in lieu of tax" agreement covering the next three years, an agreement Vistra hopes to have finalized by the end of the year.

Although Watson admitted there will likely be no movement on the Vistra-backed "coal to solar and energy storage act" legislation during the final week of the Illinois General Assembly fall veto session, he voiced optimism that possible energy legislation will re-emerge next spring.  Vistra had asked for legislation that would allow the company to reuse substantial transmission infrastructure and its existing footprint of available land at its coal-fueled power plants to develop renewable energy facilities, mitigating employment and property tax impacts to plant communities and helping Illinois meet its clean energy goals.

Built by Central Illinois Public Service (CIPS), the 365-megawatt Unit 1 at Coffeen Power Station was synchronized to the power grid on Nov. 13, 1965, and declared commercial on Dec. 10.  Unit 2, producing 625 megawatts, was declared commercial six years later in 1972.

That plant became part of Ameren Energy Generating in the 1990s, and that company invested over $900 million in upgrades, including sulphur "scrubbers" in 2009 and 2010.

Dynegy took over Coffeen and four other Illinois coal-fired plants in early 2014 by assuming some $850 million in Ameren debt, and in 2016 the plant was honored by Peabody Energy as the cleanest-coal-fueled power plant in the world.  

In 2017, the merger with Vistra Energy was announced, a deal that was completed on April 9, 2018.  Vistra announced on Aug. 21 this year that Coffeen, along with Duck Creek Power Plant in Canton, Havana Power Plant, and Hennepin Power Plant, would be shuttered by the end of the year.

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