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“We’re going to get through this.” – Former Havana Power Plant employees fight on after closure

Communities across Illinois are picking up the pieces after the closure of a number of coal plants owned by Vistra Energy. These closures hitting small cities like Havana particularly hard with the plant being an important employer and source of tax support.

It was closed by Vistra citing new Illinois pollution standards. Despite the hardships, the community says they will continue to fight on.

The Havana Power Plant had been a stable job for many in Havana, some for over four decades, like Denis Bryant, still in disbelief.

“When they had us stand single file in line and turn in our keys and our badge and cell phone and all that kind of stuff is got pretty real then, that was a tough day.” said Bryant, a 41 year employee at the plant

While he is choosing to retire, he is worried about his younger colleagues who are looking at having to either re-educate themselves, go into a different field, or move out.

“Everyone is kind of grappling with where am I supposed to be and what can I do either for myself personally or as a community that will help me land on my feet .” said Kathie Brown, an extension educator at the University of Illinois

The mayor said the ripple effect will be inevitable. Concerned with the economic impact on their school and the community as a whole as they continue downtown revitalization.

“Nothing is going to replace that tax support unless Vistra would come in and help us start a new company or go to solar energy. We have hopes that Vistra will still do that as they talked about last summer.” said Mayor Brenda Stadsholt

Environmental organizations like Prairie Rivers Network are hoping lawmakers will take up their Clean Energy Job Act which includes policies to help communities like Havana

“Tax base replacement, new economic development resources for the community as well as job retraining and education opportunities for workers.”  said Amanda Pankau an Energy Campaign Coordinator with the Prairie Rivers Network

While the future remains unclear families impacted are leaning on their community.

“We’re going to get through this, we’re a strong family and we’re not the only ones going through this Everything is going to be okay.” said Ellie Roat whose dad worked at the plant for 16 years.

Kaitlin Pearson

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