Making Decision On Power Plant

Marshall County commissioners probably will be asked Monday to clear the way for construction of a $615 million power plant just south of Moundsville. If two key concerns can be satisfied, they should do so.

Commissioners Don Mason, Bob Miller and Brian Schambach have been considering the proposal by a company named Moundsville Power LLC, for months. Miller has raised three major concerns.

First, it is proposed that a payment in lieu of taxes agreement be utilized. It would require commissioners and the county Board of Education to forego property taxes from the plant for 30 years. In exchange, they would receive payments of about $1 million a year, substantially less than the potential amount of property taxes.

Miller does not like use of such government incentives to bring in new or expanded businesses. He believes that if a business plan makes sense, it should not require special breaks.

Ideally, he is right about that. Incentives often give local and state governments in relatively prosperous areas big advantages in economic development.

But PILOT agreements are common and have been utilized in the past in Marshall County. They are authorized by state law, precisely to give local governments another tool in economic development.

If changes in tax incentives are to be made, they should occur in Charleston, at the state Legislature.

In this situation, it needs to be remembered that while Marshall County will forgo some property taxes if the plant is built, it will receive almost nothing if the facility is not constructed and the land remains vacant.

But Miller has other concerns, including whether commissioners’ involvement will make taxpayers liable should something unforeseen – the company declaring bankruptcy, for example – occur.

Moundsville Power LLC officials believe they have provisions in place, including insurance policies, to guard the county against liability. Those safeguards will be discussed Monday with commissioners.

Miller also questions whether commissioners and the school board are getting enough through the $1 million annual payments.

But benefits of the plant need to be kept in mind, too. Hundreds of construction jobs and about 30 permanent ones will be created by the plant.

Because it will use natural gas turbines, it will provide a market for locally produced gas. That will benefit many local owners of mineral rights.

And the plant will be a boon in other ways to the local economy.

After hearing the company’s presentation Monday, commissioners should take a few days to consider the plan.

Once they have done that – and if they believe liability issues have been settled and the county is getting a good financial deal – they should approve the PILOT agreement.