State Senator Andy Manar toured the Coffeen power station Friday to reaffirm his commitment to the plant’s operations, its role in the energy market and the workers it employs.
Participating in the tour and discussion were: Manar; plant manager John Cooley; production manager Kevin Ziegler; maintenance manager Scott Bell; administration manager Joyce Lipe; safety specialist Joe Luckett; Jeff Ferry government affairs director for Vistra Energy, which operates the Coffeen plant; Jerad Volkmar, business manager for Laborers’ Local 1084; and Luke Lyerla, union steward for the Operating Engineers Local 148.
Manar (D-Bunker Hill) reiterated that he is ready to take whatever steps necessary to work with Vistra Energy to keep the plant part of its fleet of production facilities across multiple states.
“Not only is the Coffeen Power Station critical to energy production in Illinois, it is a major employer in this part of the state and a vital piece of the local economy,” he said.
Volkmar, whose grandfather and father also worked at the Coffeen plant, said the power station provides the kind of well-paying jobs that are needed to support families, local schools and smaller, locally owned businesses.
“Since the coal mines closed down, Montgomery County doesn’t have as many of the kinds of job opportunities it takes to attract families to the area,” he said. “The Coffeen power station keeps families here and pumps money into the local economy. Without it, the county and our schools would be devastated.”
Manar, whose Senate district includes the Coffeen plant, voted against the so-called “Exelon bill” in 2016, which prioritized Chicago-area energy jobs over downstate energy jobs.
He also has decried the lack of downstate representation on the Illinois Commerce Commission, the powerful board that approves utility rates and monitors railroad crossing safety. He filed Senate Bill 3626, which require geographic balance on the five-member panel. Manar was the only member of the Senate to vote against the governor’s latest appointment to the commerce commission. Since taking office in 2015, Gov. Bruce Rauner has appointed five members to the commission; none live outside of Cook and DuPage counties. It’s the first time in a century that no downstate member sits on the ICC.
Manar said the spring legislative session will be a critical time for potential legislation related to energy production in Illinois.
“I will continue to have an open line of communication to Vistra, and I will continue to fight to protect jobs in Montgomery County,” he said.