Plant Proposal Receives Support

MOUNDSVILLE – Marshall County would receive about $31 million in lease payments over 30 years from the proposed $615 million Moundsville Power LLC natural gas-fired electricity plant – about $13 million less than it would collect if the plant faced normal property taxes.

On Tuesday, county commissioners Don Mason, Bob Miller and Brian Schambach approved a resolution regarding the lease terms for the agreement between the commission and Moundsville Power, a private investment firm based in Buffalo, N.Y., which hopes to build a 549-megawatt power plant along the Ohio River.

Calculations made by county Assessor Christopher Kessler show the plant would pay the county about $44.28 million in property taxes over 30 years – if commissioners had not agreed to the Payment in Lieu of Tax plan last week.

“If we don’t do something like this, the property will just sit there,” County Administrator Betsy Frohnapfel said after the Tuesday meeting. “This resolution helps them with their financing.”

Frohnapfel and commissioners emphasized that the Tuesday resolution does not establish a lease with Moundsville Power, as the official agreement with come later. Frohnapfel said she is not sure when the actual lease will come before the commission.

“This is only one step toward the final lease agreement. This is a very detailed process,” Miller said.

Frohnapfel said the county would purchase the plant for a “nominal fee” from Moundsville Power, if it is built. Because of the PILOT agreement reached last week, Moundsville Power would pay the county a $1 million fee when the plant becomes operational and would then follow an annual payment schedule that would give the county as much as $39.29 million over 30 years.

However, the firm will receive an annual discount of $10,000 for every one of the 30 full-time jobs it maintains at the facility, reducing the likely total payment to the county over 30 years by $9 million.

“We plan to use these funds to bring in more economic development,” Frohnapfel said.

The proposed development area – a 37.5-acre site between the Williams Energy fractionation natural gas processing plant and the Moundsville County Club – is classified as a Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which the organization defines as an “abandoned place where hazardous waste is located.”

According to the resolution passed Tuesday, Moundsville Power must address environmental issues with the land and indemnify the county from any potential liability before the commission will sign an actual lease.

During Tuesday’s meeting, county resident Jim Thomas said he hopes natural gas power is not going to replace coal-fired electricity, as many coal miners work at the Murray Energy Marshall County and Ohio County mines.

“How is this plant going to benefit me and the people of Marshall County? I don’t want to see us lose 1,500 coal miners to get 30 jobs,” he said.

“There will be a lease payment coming back to the county. You are using the gas developed in this county in this county,” Don Rigby, executive director of the Regional Economic Development Partnership, told Thomas, while assuring him the proposed plant would not be in competition with the coal-fired American Electric Power Mitchell Plant.

Following the meeting, Moundsville Power Managing Partner Andrew Dorn Jr. said his company will keep the commission and RED informed of how the project is proceeding. He said the firm will file a siting certificate with the state’s Public Service Commission.