The economic benefits of a planned 800-megawatt electrical power plant in the City of Oregon that would burn natural gas instead of coal dominated the testimony offered during a hearing held Tuesday at the city administration building.
Representatives of government, business, and labor expressed support for the $860 million project during the hearing held by the Power Siting Board of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
If built, the plant would be located on a 30-acre parcel on North Lallendorf Road, east of the intersection with York Street.
The application for a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need submitted by the project developer, Oregon Clean Energy, LLC, a subsidiary of North America Project Development, has been recommended for approval by the siting board’s staff.
Oregon Mayor Mike Seferian and two members of city council, Tom Susor, council president, and Jim Seaman, chairman of council’s finance committee, said the plant is needed.
“We like to boast a bit that we are a small city that is a full-service city, one of the only in the State of Ohio that has its own wastewater treatment plant, water treatment plant, as well as police and fire department and total city services. For us to add a power plant to that adds to our attractability so that we can survive as a city. This is a big tool for us,” the mayor said.
Susor said the recent announcement by First Energy to downsize its coal-fired power production plants will result in the loss of jobs and reliable proven power for the industrial sector.
“I would simply say this project is happening at the right place and the right time …” he said.
Seaman said the project’s management team has been communicating well with the city administration and the plant would help bolster the city’s revenues, which have been hurt the loss of funding from the state and a slow economy.
Gary Thompson, a Seaman Road resident and member of the Regional Growth Partnership, credited the management for presenting a sound business plan.
“They've also been very diligent in our local community, meeting with the City of Oregon, meeting with (Lucas) County officials. They've done their homework and I think they've presented a plant that many have echoed already that certainly is an environmentally sustainable plant,” he said. “It's a plant that fits perfectly not only for Oregon, Ohio, but for our region. The construction jobs alone, this is the kind of thing that people in northwest Ohio do. We know how to engineer, we know how to build, and we know how to operate. And when you take into effect the other clustered companies that exist in Oregon that are in the petroleum industry, the energy industry, the chemical industry, this plant is a perfect fit for our community.”
Tim Pedro, president of the Oregon Economic Development Foundation, and Lindsay Myers, the foundation’s executive director, also spoke in support of the project.
Fred Keith, business manager for Boilermakers Local 85, said in addition to the boost to the area’s tax base, the plant represents an environmental improvement.
“But the thing that's really great about this is it's going to make clean energy for your area. It's absolutely top-notch. You've got one over in Fremont you can look at and see how it works,” he said, referring to the American Municipal Power Fremont Energy Center.
Stacey Wiseman, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express, and Patrick Czarny, general manager of the Maumee Bay State Park Lodge and Conference Center, said the project would bring clean energy to the area.
No one offered testimony opposing the project.
Oregon Clean Energy plans to begin construction this summer and have the plant operating by May 2016. It would be fueled by natural gas supplies from nearby pipelines.
The company is being funded by Energy Investors Funds, a private energy equity fund.
The siting board is scheduled to hold an adjudicatory hearing on the company’s application April 9 at 10 a.m. in the board’s Columbus office. The board is chaired by the chairman of the PUCO, Its other voting members include the directors of the departments of agriculture, health, natural resources, the Ohio Development Services Agency, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and a public member appointed by the governor.
Four non-voting members, two from the state senate and two from the house of representatives, also sit on the board.
In January 2012, FirstEnergy announced its generation subsidiaries were retiring six coal-fired power plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, including three units at the BayShore plant in Oregon. The utility cited the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mercury and air toxics standards and other environmental regulations in its decision.