The energy company NRG is planning to close multiple coal plants next year, including one in Romeoville.
NRG announced the closures to investors on Thursday, the company said in a statement.
“Closing these plants was a difficult, but necessary decision in light of the low market prices,” the statement said. “The directly affected plants in Illinois are Will County and Waukegan.”
Both the Will County site, located on 135th Street in Romeoville, and the Waukegan site are expected to close in June of 2022.
NRG added it understands “the impact this decision will have on our employees and the local communities,” though employees will be able to apply for open positions within the company.
The company also said it will provide transition assistance and severance to affected workers.
In a presentation to investors posted on its website, NRG listed the closing of the plants as part of its “path to decarbonization.” The closings represent 55% of NRG’s coal fleet, according to the presentation.
By 2025, NRG is on track to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by about 56% over a decade. The company said in its presentation it aims to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.
The move came as a relief to environmental groups like Citizens Against Ruining the Environment which said it’s the oldest environmental nonprofit in Will County.
“CARE is elated that NRG is finally doing the right thing by shutting down the toxic coal stacks that have caused and significantly impacted so many respiratory health issues in and around all of the units,” said Mary Burnitz, director and one of the founders of CARE, in a statement. “Air has no boundaries. This issue is not new and the long term effects are scary. This has been a long journey and it’s not over yet.”
The group said the plant in Romeoville is the largest source of sulfur dioxide SO2 pollution in the south suburbs of the Chicago region. CARE added it’s been advocating for over 25 years to use new sources of energy to curb air pollution.
Doug Pryor, the vice president of the Will County Center for Economic Development, said NRG’s announcement is not surprising considering the nationwide move away from coal energy.
While the impact on the affected employees is unfortunate, he added, the energy sector in Will County continues to be strong, especially with investments in cleaner sources like wind, electric and natural gas.
“From our perspective, we’re lucky enough to have a lot of energy assets in Will County,” Pryor said.