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Aerospace Facility May Be on Way to West Virginia

Lawmakers Create Path for Jackson County Project During One-Day Special Session

photo by: Photo by Steven Allen Adams

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, right, speaks with House Counsel J. Robert Leslie before gaveling in the House of Delegates for Monday's special session.

CHARLESTON – The state Senate and House of Delegates quickly wrapped up a new special session Monday, including passing a bill that could result in a major solar-powered aerospace manufacturing facility in Jackson County.

The Senate and House gaveled in Monday afternoon after Gov. Jim Justice issued a proclamation Saturday night calling the Legislature into its fourth special session since the beginning of the year.

Lawmakers had two bills on their plate Monday: a bill transferring $150 million in surplus tax revenue dollars to the Division of Highways for secondary road maintenance projects; and an economic development bill meant to seal the deal for a new company considering West Virginia.

Senate Bill 4001 would create a Certified Industrial Business Expansion Development Program managed by the Department of Economic Development. The bill passed the Senate 28-1 and the House 86-2. State Sen. Rupie Phillips, R-Logan, was the lone nay vote in the Senate, while delegates Marty Geartheart, R-Mercer, and Bryan Ward, R-Hardy, were the lone nay votes in the House.

The bill would allow for two 2,250-acre high-impact industrial business development districts in the state. The districts are aimed at encouraging the location and construction of large-scale industrial and manufacturing plants when the facilities require access to renewable sources of electricity.

photo by: File Photo

The old Century Aluminum plant near Ravenswood would be the site of a new solar-powered aerospace manufacturer thanks to a bill passed by the Legislature Monday.

In order to qualify for the program, an industrial/manufacturing business would need to demonstrate a positive economic development impact to the state and have the potential to attract at least two downstream businesses to the districts. In turn, any renewable energy source located in the district to service the plants would be exempt from the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission and be able to sell any excess power on the wholesale energy market.

“There are companies out there today that are on a 100% solid green quest,” Justice said Monday morning during a virtual briefing with reporters from the State Capitol Building. “We’ve done a carve out. We want to embrace our alternative energies as well. We surely don’t want to make just West Virginia a spot where not everyone is welcome. We want West Virginia to be an all-welcoming state … and not miss the opportunity to bring more and more great jobs to West Virginia.

“We came up with a mechanism to be able to do that and do that in a way that still doesn’t turn our back in any way on our coal miners, our gas workers, and all of those who are involved,” Justice continued. “I feel we should always embrace technology. We should always embrace alternatives absolutely without any question. But we shouldn’t forget who brung us to the dance.”

Sources who declined to be identified said the bill is aimed specifically at a large manufacturer that wants to locate in West Virginia. One of the two 2,250-acre districts would be located near Ravenswood in Jackson County on the site of the former Century Aluminum plant.

“There is a big announcement that is right on our doorstep,” Justice said. “We hope we will be able to do that (today) and make you all really proud and really excited as well.”

Mitch Carmichael, cabinet secretary of the Department of Economic Development, told members of the House Judiciary Committee that the proposed project would be powered by solar energy. The second phase of the proposed project would require hiring at least 200 workers not counting construction workers, with up to 1,000 workers being hired when completed.

“This is a great opportunity for West Virginia,” Carmichael said. “It uses renewable resources and creates jobs and opportunities.”

The Century Aluminum plant is located between Millwood and Ravenswood along W.Va. 2 along the Ohio River. The plant was first established in 1954 and closed in 2009. Applied Partners of New Jersey purchased the plant’s assets in 2017, but the property was deeded back to the state in 2020. The value of the property in question is more than $25 million.

“My father worked at that plant that was located there … it was shut down in 2009 and it devastated that community,” Carmichael said. “Now to see the resurgence of it and a new world-class manufacturing facility in an aerospace industry, what it will do for that community, the region, and the area is just immeasurable.”

The Legislature also passed Senate Bills 4002 and 4003, using $150 million of the more than $550 million in surplus tax revenue from the fiscal year that ended in June for secondary road maintenance projects. Earlier Monday, Justice explained that that $150 million would be divided, with $125 million going towards resurfacing projects, $25 million for equipment for all 55 counties.

“We’re going to have a minimum of two projects for every county,” Justice said. “The road maintenance, the road repairs, all the different things that are going on in Highways in regards to roads … we have resurfaced all across this state in every way. We have pulled ditches and fixed slips and absolutely on and on and on. We’re going to stay at it until absolutely we have the best roads of any place in the nation.”

As for a special session that was paused July 29 due to disagreements between House and Senate Republicans over a bill to create a new ban on abortion with limited exceptions, the House will gavel in at noon today to appoint members to a conference committee. The Senate had not agreed to do the same as of press time.


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