County Not Yet Ready to Fly With PILOT

MOUNDSVILLE – Marshall County commissioners Don Mason and Brian Schambach said they need more information from Moundsville Power before they can support a Payment In Lieu of Tax agreement for the $615 million plant.

During a special meeting Monday, commissioners listened as representatives of Moundsville Power, insurance companies and others spoke. Mason said commissioners need to have “all t’s crossed and i’s dotted” before proceeding to a vote on the 549-megawatt plant.

“If they decide they want to expand the project, we want to make sure they have to come back to us,” Schambach said. “Also, there was not clarity on the specific amount of insurance that would be provided.”

Moundsville Power Managing Partner Andrew Dorn said the company plans to burn about 100 million cubic feet of natural gas per day to generate electricity. He said the project would likely create 400 temporary construction jobs during the building phase and another 30 full-time jobs once it is operational.

As it stands, the PILOT calls for the county to take official ownership of the natural gas power plant upon its completion for the sum of $1, while the company would pay the county about $31 million over 30 years.

“This is a loss of tax dollars,” Commissioner Bob Miller, who opposed the plan, said. “Government should not own businesses, anyway.”

Craig Griffith, an attorney representing the county commission in its ongoing negotiations with Moundsville Power, assured commissioners that a shutdown of the plant would void the PILOT, which would then require the owners to pay regular property taxes on the land.

“The lenders obviously have a vested interest in seeing the plant run because that is how they will get paid,” Griffith said.

Lee Reynolds, global practice director for power and utilities for Oklahoma City-based Gallagher Energy, said his firm serves as the insurance broker for the Moundsville Power project.

“We will cover the risks and exposures of Marshall County,” he said. “We know this policy works and know it works well.”

Reynolds said the insurance policy would protect county taxpayers from any liability in the event of an environmental spill or blast, even if it is an act of “terrorism.”

Although much of the development area along the Ohio River is classified as a Superfund site by the EPA – which identifies mercury and chloromethane as some contaminants that have been found in the soil over the years – Reynolds said the portion of land that will house the new plant has very little pollution.

“It is a very clean site. We have gone onto some sites that are just awful,” he said of the plant construction zone.

Reynolds also complemented the General Electric technology the plant would employ. Planners have said the facility would 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.

“I think we are continually being educated by the experts,” Schambach said after the meeting. “We still have some details to work through.”

Commissioners will meet at 9:30 a.m. today, at which time more information from Moundsville Power could be presented.