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Caterpillar Joins FutureGen Plant Project

Company plans to join a coalition planning to build an experimental clean-coal power plant known as FutureGen near Mattoon in eastern Illinois.

MATTOON, Ill. (AP) -- Caterpillar Inc., the world's largest maker of mining and construction equipment, plans to join a coalition of companies planning to build an experimental clean-coal power plant known as FutureGen, key politicians announced Monday.

Gov. Pat Quinn and Sen. Dick Durbin said the addition of Caterpillar comes on the heels of a decision by Chicago-based Exelon Corp. -- one of the nation's biggest power generators -- to join the FutureGen Alliance seeking to build the 275-megawatt plant near Mattoon in eastern Illinois.

The U.S. Department of Energy has agreed to let coal and power companies to continue developing the project, though final approval is expected this month. The department has said the developers need to find a way to cut costs and to bring in more partners.

Quinn and Durbin, in a joint statement, said Caterpillar's involvement "signals critical support" and perhaps growing corporate momentum for the project, which would use coal while removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and storing it underground -- a process known as sequestration.

"Clean coal plays a critical role in our energy supply, energy security and environmental protection," Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar's vice chairman, said in a statement. "The FutureGen project will demonstrate carbon capture and sequestration technologies that are absolutely essential for the world to realize reductions in (greenhouse gas) emissions."

Messages left Monday with the Energy Department and FutureGen spokesman Lawrence Pacheco were not immediately returned.

Michael Mudd, the alliance's chief executive, has said his goal is to increase the number of companies involved in the project. Some of those already involved include St. Louis-based Peabody Energy Corp., Anglo American of the United Kingdom and Wyoming-based Rio Tinto Energy America.

Durbin was among those who fought to keep FutureGen alive after the Bush administration scrapped the project due to cost concerns. A congressional auditor later said the Bush administration's cost estimates were based on false projections.

Last week, in a letter he sent to President Barack Obama, Quinn lauded Obama's decision to establish an Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage -- an effort Quinn says will create a comprehensive federal strategy of using coal in an environmentally responsible way.

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