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Our view: Smart to slow down on power plant proposal

Published: Monday, Aug. 4, 2014 9:19 a.m. CDT

Developers who want to build a $450 million power plant in Oakwood Hills were smart to request a delay on moving the project forward.

Residents of the surrounding area are overwhelmingly opposed to the project, and there remain too many concerns and unanswered questions about it for the Oakwood Hills Zoning Board to move it forward.

“The local community gets to make the decision ... and certainly the local community is speaking pretty loud,” former project attorney Joe Gottemoller told the Northwest Herald last week. “I’ve done this for 30 years and I’ve never seen over 900 people before come out to a zoning hearing.”

Gottemoller no longer is working with the developers, who asked to postpone until October a public comment period that was scheduled for last Thursday at the Crystal Lake Holiday Inn.

The current plan calls for a 430-megawatt, natural gas plant that would be located along Valley View Road near the village hall. The plant would be a load-following power plant, meaning the electricity it provides would fluctuate with the demand. Plant operations will require roughly 1.5 million gallons of water a day.

At a previous public hearing, residents have raised concerns about health and environmental effects, water supply, noise and property values. Developers didn’t have answers for some residents’ questions, or had incomplete answers involving intentions.

Even School District 46, which stands to benefit from property taxes from the project, is opposed.

“We made a mistake and we are trying to correct that mistake,” Conrad Anderson, senior engineer for joint project manager Enventure Partners, said of the many questions he’s receive from residents. “We want time to address all the concerns from the community and that is going to take time. Now we know all the concerns. We were guessing before.”

There’s little doubt that a new power plant is needed in the region. Three of six coal plants in northeast Illinois have shut down and more are expected to follow.

Both sides now have plenty of time to regroup and gather more information, which is preferable since this major project seemed to be coming too fast for residents. We don’t expect the tide to turn in favor of the project, but at least everyone will have a much better opportunity to ask questions and get answers.

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