What Changed So Drastically?

At least Gov. Jim Justice has had the good grace to refrain from saying he told us so. It turns out his reservations about the Brooke County Power project were not without foundation.

Less than three weeks after the West Virginia Economic Development Authority approved a $5.5 million loan for the project, its developer pulled the plug.

Brooke County Power ESC, an affiliate of Energy Solutions Consortium of Buffalo, New York, announced Friday it is “evaluating alternative options to move forward.” It appears that means the big power plant local officials had hoped would recharge Brooke County’s economy will not be built.

Just a few weeks ago, Brooke Power had sought a $5.6 million loan guarantee from the development authority. Action on that was delayed because Justice had reservations about the proposal.

Specifically, the governor cited concerns about how much West Virginia natural gas would be used by the power plant, and how many state residents would be employed to build it. Justice appears to have given in to pressure in favor of the plan, however. Instead of providing a loan guarantee, the authority late last month approved a direct loan.

What happened? Brooke Power cited “changing conditions in the energy and financial markets.” Company Chief Executive Officer Andrew Dorn elaborated that, “The external perception of a challenging climate in West Virginia has added to the difficult investment sector that changed drastically since the summer, when (developers) initially approached the state’s development authority about a loan guarantee.”

Read between the lines. What “challenging climate in West Virginia”? Just exactly what changed so dramatically in a matter of weeks?

By all appearances, local officials bent over backwards to make the project a reality. The development authority loan offer seems to indicate state officials tried to help. What, exactly, went wrong? Learning the specifics could avoid a similar disappointment in the future.


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