Specifically, the DOE said it issued a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Record of Decision.
"This step forward demonstrates the (Obama) Administration's commitment to developing clean energy technologies, creating jobs and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in the release.
The U.S. government wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2) that scientists have linked to the warming of the planet. Carbon capture and Sequestration (CCS) could allow coal, which currently provides about half the nation's electricity, to remain an important source of power for decades.
The DOE decision allows the FutureGen Alliance to proceed with site-specific activities for the project. During the next eight to 10 months, DOE said the Alliance will complete a preliminary design, refine its cost estimate, develop a funding plan, expand the sponsorship group, and, if needed, conduct additional subsurface characterization.
Following these activities, which will be completed in early 2010, the DOE and the Alliance will decide whether to continue the project through construction and operation. If the parties decide to move forward, DOE said funding will be phased and conditioned based on completion of necessary NEPA reviews.
The DOE anticipated contributing $1.073 billion to the project, $1 billion from Recovery Act funds for carbon capture and sequestration research. The FutureGen Alliance's total anticipated financial contribution is $400 million to $600 million, based on a goal of 20 members each contributing $20 million to $30 million over a four to six year period.
FutureGen members include Anglo American, BHP Billiton, China Huaneng Group, Consol Energy, E.ON AG's US unit, Foundation Coal Holdings Inc, Peabody Energy Corp and Rio Tinto.
The total cost estimate of the project is $2.4 billion, according to the DOE release.