Siting Board Hears Unanimous Support for Power Plant

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – A total of 14  witnesses made brief statements before representatives of the Ohio Power Siting Board last evening and not a single one spoke out against a proposed project to build an $800 million power plant in the Village.

Members of the building trades, elected officials, educators, private business people and area residents turned out Tuesday evening at Lordstown High School to urge their support for Clean Energy Future-Lordstown’s plans to construct a natural gas-powered electrical plant here.

“We’re quite encouraged and satisfied with what we’ve heard tonight,” says Bill Siderewicz, president of Clean Energy. “The next step is that there is an adjudicatory hearing on Aug. 11 in Columbus, and that’s an opportunity for our company to go forward and present our position about the project.”

About 100 attended the hearing Tuesday, which was held to invite public comment regarding the proposed plant.

Utility projects in Ohio must undergo an approval process, and the Lordstown hearing is part of that process, says Matt Butler, spokesman for the Ohio Siting Board. “The purpose is to get the public’s comment on record,” he says.

Once the comments are placed on the record, they are presented to the full siting board as part of the approval process during the adjudicatory hearing, Butler says.

The board consists of seven voting members, six of whom represent state agencies – the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio Department of Health, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and the Ohio Department of Economic Development.

Gov. John Kasich appoints a seventh public member to the board.

The siting board staff has recommended that the project move ahead.

Clean Energy is seeking approval to begin construction on an 800-megawatt electrical generation plant – or enough capacity to serve 700,000 single-family houses — that Siderewicz says could bring as much as $1.5 billion in economic benefits to the region over the next 20 years. The plant is to be located on 17 acres on the east side of state Route 45 and south of Henn Parkway.

Mayor Arno Hill told the board’s Administrative Law Judge Greta See that the administration is “100% behind the project.” Hill and others have visited other Ohio communities where Clean Energy has constructed, or is constructing, similar plants. So far, none of these communities have had any complaints regarding their projects or the company.

“This is truly an enterprise with a significant regional impact,” he says.

Amy Domino, a teacher in the Lordstown Local School District, says the project will mean millions of dollars over the years for the school system, affording it resources that it currently lacks. “This energy center will help us now and in the future,” she says.

Siderewicz explains that the company has agreed to raze the old middle school building at the corner of Salt Springs Road and state Route 45, and build a new soccer field somewhere in the village.

During the project’s three-year construction phase, the company will contribute $500,000 per year to the school district, he says. “Once the plant gets up and running, over the first 15 years, we’ll be contributing almost $18 million to the school,” he continues.

The building trades echoed their support of the project, since about 500 tradesmen will be used during the construction phase of the project.

Projects such as these keep the men and women of the Mahoning Valley working, says Don Crane, president of the Western Reserve Building and Construction Trades Council. “We’re having dialogue on a contract to use the building trades exclusively,” on this project, he notes.

Siderewicz says that the work amounts to 1.6 million hours of construction labor, and the project will pay the village a salary tax in addition to the 1% income tax the plant will pay once its operational.

Moreover, neighboring municipalities such as Warren and Niles will benefit because the plant would purchase water and wastewater services from those cities.

Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said he thinks the city could receive another $1 million a year in revenue just by adding Clean Energy as a new water customer. “We’re proud to partner with the village on this project,” he says.

Meanwhile, Clean Energy is moving through other aspects of the project, such as its air quality permit and achieving a financial close so work could begin, Siderewicz says.

Should all go according to plan, construction could begin as early as mid-October of this year, he says.

However, there are some issues that need resolved before work could start, Siderewicz cautions. The most pressing issue is to negotiate an arrangement that would allow the company to run power lines underneath existing lines owned by FirstEnergy Corp. Those lines would run to a substation that is planned for the site.

“If they can help us move this along in a timely way, we will be successful,” Siderewicz says. “As we stand today, FirstEnergy is really the only entity that can prevent us from not being successful.”

 

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.