Muckraker: Grist on PoliticsRemember FutureGen, the pilot program that was supposed to yield the nation’s first zero-emissions, “clean coal” power plant? The one that even the Bush administration realized was a bad idea, after the price tag on the project ballooned to $1.8 billion? Well, some senators just don’t want to see it die ($ub req’d).

Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved language to force the Department of Energy to continue funding FutureGen until March 2009, lumping it in with the $193 billion war supplemental spending bill. The amendment was sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Kit Bond (R-Mo.). FutureGen was supposed to be sited in Mattoon, Ill., in Durbin’s home state. Eight other members of the Illinois congressional delegation, including presidential contender Barack Obama, have also called for continued funding of the project.

As it stands right now, the DOE has a cooperative agreement with the FutureGen Industry Alliance, a coalition of 13 coal producers and utility companies managing the project, that runs through June 15. DOE was supposed to pick up a whopping 75 percent of the tab on the plant, but in January, the department announced that instead of putting all that money toward FutureGen, it would move the money to other projects and aim to get carbon capture-and-sequestration technologies in place at other power plants.

The war supplemental package — which includes funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as well as domestic spending on hurricane recovery, veterans education, food aid, and federal highways — is slated to hit the Senate floor next week. The House version of the bill failed yesterday.

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