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Approve Loan Guarantee for Brooke Power Plant

By Steve Roberts

I am writing today to support the proposed Brooke County 830-megawatt electric power plant that is facing an uncertain future.

ESC Brooke County Power, the proposed plant, would utilize $177.5 million worth of natural gas each year, instantly becoming the largest user of this resource in West Virginia. The local benefits of such a project are enormous. Approximately 1,000 skilled laborers will be needed to construct the plant, and the boost to the tax base of Brooke County will provide increased opportunity for the citizens of the Northern Panhandle.

The economic impact of the plant is estimated at over $400 million annually, and it will generate 830 megawatts of electricity for our region’s power grid.

To ensure a reliable fuel source, ESC Brooke County Power will build a 17-mile pipeline connection to the existing Rover Pipeline. A connection to this pipeline will make it possible for West Virginia natural gas producers to access a major interstate pipeline, allowing them to greatly increase production. This will also be an important step to help connect the proposed plant to more West Virginia-based natural gas. That is why the natural gas companies that are members of the West Virginia Chamber have told us they support this project strongly.

Several investors are involved in this project and are working diligently and earnestly to bring the plant to West Virginia. Unfortunately, West Virginia’s commitment to some new industries is under scrutiny. While that is not a reputation that I believe is deserved in recent years, it is one that we must nevertheless overcome.

ESC Brooke County Power has applied to the West Virginia Economic Development Authority for a $5.6 million loan guarantee to serve as collateral for a loan obtained from a private bank. This guarantee offers very little exposure to the taxpayers of West Virginia, but would serve as a clear demonstration that West Virginia is invested in this important project and will be a reliable partner going forward.

The fate of ESC Brooke County Power is being closely watched by investors around the country. The most positive signal would be provided by the approval of the West Virginia Economic Development Authority for this loan.

It should be noted that nearby in Ohio and Pennsylvania these type plants have already been built. It is not an exaggeration to say that this plant and others like it are coming. But without affirmative action they will not be built in our state. Losing this opportunity is a loss our state cannot afford.

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce is working every day to make our state a better place to live, work, raise a family and prosper. With our vast natural resources and dedicated workforce there is no reason we shouldn’t be home to countless projects like ESC Brooke County Power. That is why I am urging the West Virginia Economic Development Authority to guarantee this loan and show that West Virginia is ready to meet the opportunities of the 21st century.

Steve Roberts is the President of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, whose members are located in all 55 counties and employ over half of West Virginia’s workforce.

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