Natural Gas Power Plant Debate Continues

While Marshall County commissioners emphasize the deal to build the $615 million Moundsville Power LLC natural gas electricity plant is not finished, residents John Toth and Carl Boso are not sure why elected officials would support such a project.

During the Tuesday commission meeting, Toth and Boso questioned commissioners Don Mason, Brian Schambach and Bob Miller about the Payment in Lieu of Tax plan they approved for the Buffalo, N.Y.-based private developer last month. If Moundsville Power can build the 549-megawatt plant on a 37.5-acre piece of property along the Ohio River, the PILOT plan shows the county would likely receive about $31 million in payments over 30 years. According to calculations by County Assessor Christopher Kessler, this is about $13 million less than the plant would generate under a normal property tax schedule.

“We are going to put in this power plant – and kick coal in the face,” Toth said. “There is more to think about than 30 jobs and a few dollars.”

Toth said coal-fired electric plants, such as the American Electric Power Kammer Plant, are shutting down because of heavy U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation. He also pointed to the hundreds of coal miners working in the county at the facilities now owned by Murray Energy Corp.

However, Andrew Dorn, managing partner with Moundsville Power, said the electricity generated at the potential plant would not be any direct replacement for the soon-to-close Kammer Plant. He said demand for electricity along the Eastern Seaboard is driving the need for the plant.

Toth and Boso also questioned the potential plant’s proximity to Washington Lands Elementary School. The plant would be built on an EPA Superfund site between the Williams Energy fractionator facility and the Moundsville Country Club.

“You guys need to look out for the people who live in Washington Lands. I don’t think we should endanger the kids at the school,” Boso said. “The kids and the citizens of Marshall County are who you need to look out for.”

As he has for several weeks, Mason said the county has not finalized an agreement with Moundsville Power, other than for the financial terms. He said Moundsville Power needs to address issues such as environmental hazards and indemnification from lawsuit liability before the commission signs onto a final agreement.

“There will be more meetings with Moundsville Power,” Schambach said. “The industry is highly, highly regulated.”

Dorn has said the $615 million price tag will be met with private financing. He said his proposed facility will be a combined-cycle plant that will use natural gas to run one of its turbines, while using the exhaust heat from this process to drive an additional steam turbine.