A PILOT Agreement for Longview Two Should Be Based on Realistic Principles

by admin on November 5, 2019

Should the resident citizens have input to a PILOT agreement?

Mon County Needs A Fair PILOT Agreement for Longview

By Jim Kotcon, Opinion—Editorial (Letter to Editor), Submitted to Morgantown Dominion Post, November 3, 2019

The Mon County Commission (MCC) is considering a gigantic tax break to attract yet another fossil fuel power plant to the area. The proposed Longview II would be a 1200-MW gas-fired facility located next to the existing coal-fired plant, and just a short distance from Fort Martin.

Longview claims that the new facility will be “environmentally friendly”, as do many of our political leaders, but everyone ignores the elephant in the room. The greenhouse gas emissions would exceed three million tons per year. And before proponents try to claim that natural gas produces fewer greenhouse gases than coal, the very fact that some make this claim is an acknowledgement that the issue is real, and an honest look at the math says that such a small incremental reduction is not enough.

America needs to reduce greenhouse gas emission by half within 10 years, and be entirely off fossil fuels within 30. Any investment in new fossil fuel facilities is unlikely to remain in operation long enough to pay off its cost, and those funds need to be invested in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.

We cannot stop a private company from wasting money on bad investments, but the MCC should not give tax breaks to encourage them.

MCC should insist on carbon dioxide capture and sequestration for the proposed Longview II gas-fired power plant.

In the absence of carbon capture, the MCC should insist on separate PILOT Agreements for the Longview II gas plant and the proposed Longview solar facilities. The economic outlook for a solar farm is much more favorable over the long term than for fossil fuel facilities.

The MCC should also consider the potential for the Longview II facility to adversely affect competitiveness of the Fort Martin power plant, which does pay its fair share of property taxes. Competition from Longview will almost certainly constrain the ability of Fort Martin to compete. Even if Fort Martin does not close immediately, captive ratepayers for Mon Power may see increased electric rates to cover the increased costs of operating Fort Martin, and mine workers may see reduced hours of operation. While these changes are inevitable in a carbon-constrained economy, offering tax breaks that exacerbate these economic strains in order to provide incentives to another fossil fuel plant is short-sighted.

The MCC should require economic analyses of the proposed Longview II plant that consider the long-term costs of greenhouse gas emissions. Realistic estimates of the economic impacts of greenhouse gas emissions are in the range of $50-75 per ton. Analyses that do not consider this cost of carbon implicitly assume the cost is zero, a number everyone knows is wrong.

The MCC should consider the potential for methane from biofuels to be used at the proposed Longview II facility. If coupled with carbon capture and sequestration, this could result in net negative greenhouse gas emissions. Such technologies will be essential to keep global temperature increases below 2 C, and would assure a lifetime of operation for the Longview II facility.

Finally, the MCC should pro-rate any PILOT Agreement to the actual construction cost of the facility. When the MCC negotiated the last PILOT with Longview, Longview low-balled their cost estimates. In 2004, they claimed that plant would cost around $940 million, and the first PILOT was based on that estimate. The actual cost was over $2.2 billion, more than double the value used to negotiate the first PILOT.

The County Commission needs to be very skeptical of any cost estimates proposed by Longview, make sure that payments are proportional to the actual cost of the facility, and be fair to every other taxpayer in Mon County.

To learn more about these issues, and discuss fair solutions for all, please attend a public meeting on Thursday, November 7th at 6 PM in the MAC building, 107 High Street, Morgantown.

Jim Kotcon, WV Sierra Club, Morgantown, WV

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary Wildfire November 5, 2019 at 9:56 am

RE: Letter of Jim Kotcon on Longview II Natural Gas Power Plant, November 5, 2019

Putting carbon capture and sequestration equipment on the proposed gas-fired power plant would not solve its climate-abuse problem. Much of the impact of gas-fired electricity generation is in the methane leaks all along the supply chain.

The reason you see such varying numbers on the climate intensity of methane as compared to carbon dioxide is that there is a time question: while methane is something like 108 times more potent, it doesn’t last in the atmosphere nearly as long. Thus the comparison becomes a matter of judgement.

Surely if there are still humans in 100 years, they will care that CO2 emitted now–or 100 years ago–is still up there warming the Earth, while the methane is long gone. But on the other hand, the time when we are risking pushing the climate system over the brink into a dangerously unstable equilibrium, because various positive feedback mechanisms take over, is NOW.

So the short-term impact of methane may matter more than the long term impact of CO2. The only responsible approach to a gas-fired power plant in Mon County is not to do it. If they still want to put in a solar facility — if that isn’t just a sweetener to ram in the gas-fired power plant — fine, go ahead.

Mary Wildfire, Roane County, WV


Jim Kotcon November 6, 2019 at 8:17 pm

Thank you to Mary for very relevant comments.

The upstream emissions for fracked gas are every bit as important as the direct CO2 emissions.

The real benefit of CCS occurs when it is coupled with biofuels. Biomass Energy CCS would require a significant carbon tax or regulatory requirement to be economically feasible, but is increasingly viewed as essential if the world is to avoid the 2 C temperature increases that the IPCC view as dangerous.

In fact, the technical modelling for the Paris Climate Agreement shows that the world must rely heavily on the “negative emissions” from biomass energy CCS in order to reduce atmospheric levels of CO2. Unfortunately, that is a technology that the world simply is not adopting fast enough.

Jim Kotcon, Monongalia County, WV


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