Weigh Proposed Plant Prudently

Both Marshall County commissioners and the county Board of Education have approved preliminary agreements that could lead to construction of a $615 million, gas-fired power plant just south of Moundsville. But much remains to be done before the plan can be considered a “done deal.”

It certainly appears the plant would be a boon to the area economy. It would require 400-500 construction workers. Once completed, about 30 employees would be needed to operate it.

An important aspect of the plan is that it would create a new market for natural gas from this area. It also has the potential to generate a substantial amount of reasonably priced electricity.

But the Buffalo, N.Y. company proposing the plant has said it would not be feasible to build it without special arrangements regarding ownership of the facility and taxes paid for it.

A plan whereby Marshall County commissioners would own the facility and lease it back to the company is on the table. If that is finalized, it would mean that because the plant is publicly owned, the company would pay no property taxes.

Both commissioners and the school board have agreed that, in lieu of property taxes, they will accept $4.2 million each in payments during the next 30 years.

The proposal is a complex one, as commissioners recognize. They understand some of the long-term ramifications – but also realize unforeseen events will have effects on the arrangement.

In other words, something of a gamble is involved.

Commissioners cannot be expected to guard against pitfalls no reasonable person can predict. Still, they should be extremely cautious in evaluating and proceeding on the plan, for the good of the Marshall County residents they represent.