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Central Illinois coal plants could soon turn to solar energy

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CANTON (WEEK) -- Illinois lawmakers and Vista Energy leaders pitched their idea of solar energy to the people of Canton on Wednesday at an informational forum.

Senator Dave Koehler (D), said the city is dependent on the tax base of the Duck Creek power plant, which recently closed.

"We're trying to see what we can do as a state and what kind of responsibility we have to communities like this so we don't just push them to the brink," said Koehler.

If passed, the "Illinois Coal to Solar & Energy Storage Act" will bring 2,000 construction jobs and retain nearly 400 energy jobs at operating plants in the state.

Koehler said he knows it doesn't produce the same number of jobs, but the switch to solar energy will still provide some.

"We've got to very quickly understand what that transition is going to be and how we can be beneficiaries of that transition rather than victims of it," explained Koehler.

When the Duck Creek plant closed in 2019, School District 66 Superintendent Rolf Sivertsen said the district lost about $800,000 in tax revenue.

"16 teaching salaries. That's a significant reduction in our revenue per year," said. Sivertsen

And after the plant closed, the big question was how would that money be replaced?

"I get that the markets are driving that because they're expensive to run there's no doubt about it, but it's almost like offshoring jobs to China ya know, there's not really a clear cut plan on how you're going to replace that revenue," added Sivertsen.

Koehler said this is part of a broader decision.

"We need to have that conversation and see what input we can get to say 'whats our next step, how do we secure a better future?'" said Koehler.

Lawmakers said they still need feedback from other communities, like Canton, and plan on having another forum in Hillsboro.

Paige Blanzy

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