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Midwest Generation parent files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Updated: January 19, 2013 6:15AM

Edison Mission Energy, which operates power plants in Illinois and other states, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday along with several of its affiliates.

The company said it has been challenged by depressed energy prices and high fuel costs affecting its coal-fired plants, combined with pending debt maturities and the need to retrofit its coal-fired facilities to comply with environmental regulations.

California-based Edison Mission Energy today had faced the expiration of a 30-day grace period for an interest payment of nearly $100 million it owned on unsecured bonds. It did not make the payment. The company had earlier said that failure to make the payment would likely trigger a Chapter 11 filing.

In bankruptcy petitions filed Monday in Chicago, Edison Mission Energy listed $5.1 billion in assets and $5.1 billion in debt.

The company, a subsidiary of Edison International, lists among its 30 largest creditors Commonwealth Edison Co., owed $19.2 million, and Peoples Gas, owed more than $243,000.

Edison Mission Energy is the parent company of Midwest Generation, which also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and operates four coal-fired power plants in Illinois, including in Waukegan, Joliet, Romeoville and Pekin. The company closed its two Chicago coal-fired plants — Fisk and Crawford stations — in August. Edison Mission Energy also operates one wind farm in Lee and Bureau counties, known as Big Sky.

Coal-fired plant closures are expected to quadruple in the next five years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.

Coal-fired power plants have been struggling due to the low cost of natural gas. Discoveries of shale gas have helped dramatically decrease energy prices, and technological advances have made it easier to get natural gas out of the ground. Meanwhile, burning natural gas creates fewer emissions, so that makes natural gas plants a cheaper, cleaner option.

Edison Mission Energy said throughout the bankruptcy process that business operations will continue the normal course and it will continue to support its customers, suppliers and employees.

The company employs 1,300 people nationwide, including 845 in Illinois.

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