Votes Clear Path for $1.2B Lordstown Power Plant

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – The Village Board of Public Affairs and Village Council on Tuesday approved a service agreement with the city of Warren that would directly supply water to the Trumbull Energy Center, a proposed $1.2 billion combined cycle energy plant.

The approvals came after weeks of contention over the use of Warren water for the project. Some village residents and two members of the Board of Public Affairs initially opposed that plan and instead favored using water sourced from the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District.

However on Tuesday, the board voted 3-0 to approve the agreement.

Following the BAP meeting, village council approved by a vote of 5-1 to enter into a contract with Warren through an emergency measure. This means the agreement takes effect immediately and negates any chance of residents placing the issue on a referendum.

Were that to happen, it would have killed the entire project, said Bill Siderewicz, president of Massachusetts-based Clean Energy Future LLC, Trumbull Energy Center’s developer.

Financing for the project should be wrapped up by the end of this month, Siderewicz said, and any further delay would have driven investors and bankers away.

Instead, work at the site, which is next to the existing Lordstown Energy Center along state Route 45, should begin by August.

“We’ll close the financing by the end of July or early August, and we’ll start construction a week later,” Siderewicz said.

Progress on the project hit an impasse when the Board of Public Affairs failed to approve a contract with Warren. Two of the board members – Michael Sullivan and Chris Peterson – had initially opposed working with Warren and instead suggested partnering with MVSD.

During a BAP meeting two weeks ago, the board voted to table the issue until it could get a second opinion on the contract. Board member Kevin Campbell was the sole supporter of the project and water contract.

Sullivan said he changed his mind after learning that MVSD no longer wanted to participate in the project and pulled its proposal from the table. Plus, the village was able to secure higher water fees from 37 cents to 49 cents per 1,000 gallons during those two weeks, he noted. The money raised would go directly to the BAP – an estimated $30 million over a 45-year period.

Sullivan said he asked U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13, to intercede over these last two weeks.

The congressman, a longtime friend of Sullivan’s, said after the meeting that he wanted to convince stakeholders of the project’s importance.

“We started talking to people about how important this project is,” Ryan said. “We want to make sure that business folks like Bill are welcome here. Mike’s [Sullivan] is a good guy, and he stepped up.”

Ryan said this project is especially important since it underscores the significance of the region emerging as a hub for energy innovation.

“Our obligation is to answer the call and be able to power this community,” Ryan said during the BAP meeting.

Approximately 50 people attended the BAP meeting, which was moved to the Village community room because of the anticipated attendance.

A handful residents at the meeting said they are concerned they’ll face steeper water rate increases should the village agree to the Warren plan.

Resident Mark McGrail urged both the board and council to vote down the contract. “You can stop this tonight,” he told council members. “Let’s get another proposal in here to compare the terms.”

However, Siderewicz said that any future delays would kill the entire project, which has been under development for more than four years.

Earlier, he said that renegotiating a contract with another water supplier would require moving through a long, re-permitting process that would effectively end the project.

Village Councilman Bob Bond cast the sole vote against the Warren water contract.

“The thing I don’t like is this water can’t be used by our fire department — it doesn’t go into our distribution system,” he said. He claimed that Siderewicz negotiated the deal without any input from the BAP and residents. “Does that sound fair to you?”

Siderewicz said the first meeting between the village, Warren and his company was in mid-July of last year and added the process has always been open. “We didn’t sneak anything in here.” he said.

Trumbull Energy Center is designed as a combined-cycle power plant, using natural gas and recaptured steam to power turbines that produce electricity.

The new plant will take three years to construct and provide approximately $100 million in payroll to tradesmen, Siderewicz said. Once fully operational, the facility would generate enough electricity to power 750,000 homes.

Siderewicz added that the project should produce $85 million in taxes and fees for Lordstown over a 45-year span.

The plant, he noted, is practically a mirror image of the Lordstown Energy Center, which was commissioned three years ago.

“In August, you’ll see bulldozers out there,” Siderewicz said.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.