Questions Raised by Gov. Justice on Proposed Gas-Fired Power Plant in Brooke County

by Duane Nichols on September 4, 2020

Gov. Justice discusses the COVID pandemic and the proposed Brooke County power plant

Gov. Justice raise red flags about Brooke County power plant project

From an Article by Steven Adams, Parkersburg News & Sentinel, August 27, 2020

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice said on August 26th that the Brooke County ESC natural gas power plant project is not dead, but the coal magnate questioned the need for the plant, the loan guarantee request, where the gas would come from and how many jobs the plant would create.

Speaking during a virtual press briefing from the Capitol, Justice said the Department of Commerce still needed questions answered regarding the Energy Solutions Consortium Brooke County Power project, a proposed 830-megawatt natural gas power plant.

“The media has run with this and really just perpetuated something that they felt like was a dead issue, and it’s not dead,” Justice said. “It’s not dead at all, but you expect me as your governor and our staff to be able to have things run to ground and questions answered. Now, it’s going to take some time. It’s not going to happen the day after tomorrow or the next day.”

The plant would sell electrical power on PJM Interconnection’s wholesale energy market, which serves 13 states. According to the company, the construction of the plant would create 1,164 direct and indirect jobs, provide a $440 million economic impact to Brooke County and the surrounding area, spur additional natural gas production and provide electricity to as many as 700,000 homes.

The Weirton Daily Times reported August 26th the Brooke County Commission is rallying support for the power plant from lawmakers, the business community and building trades groups after learning that the state Economic Development Authority has not agreed to assume the debt for a $5.6 million private loan in case the developers are not able to pay the loan back.

“Why in the world if this project was valid and really a go, why would the powers-that-be be struggling and needing a state loan guarantee,” Justice said. “In other words, you’ve got people who are perpetuating this and this is becoming the ultimate real estate with no money down. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense.”

Justice said he is concerned about the company’s claims about job creation and where they plan to source the natural gas needed for the plant. According to the company’s application with the Public Service Commission, they expect 75 percent of the construction jobs to come from West Virginia workers. The plant, when completed, would require 30 full-time and part-time jobs.

“I’m told that at the end of the construction period this is going to secure 20 jobs per year. That’s it,” Justice said. “In addition to that, a great many of the workers who would be working on the plant, if it ever became a reality, would be coming from out-of-state.”

The plant also would connect into local natural gas pipeline infrastructure, including the Rover pipeline, a 713-mile pipeline which feeds natural gas from West Virginia to Canada. Equitrans, formerly EQT, is building a 17-mile pipeline from Pennsylvania to feed gas for the plant from the Rover pipeline.

“I’ve been told that the way it was presented to us and came to me just weeks ago, is 100 percent of this gas was coming from a pipeline that would be constructed into Pennsylvania,” Justice said. “It’s going to take some time to get answers and assurances that we’re surely not going to build a plant and everything for the people of Pennsylvania.”

Justice stressed his support for the natural gas industry. Last summer, Justice created the Governor’s Downstream Jobs Task Force, co-chaired by Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton and Department of Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy. The goal of the task force is to encourage the growth of manufacturing and infrastructure reliant on natural gas.

Still, Justice’s support for coal is well known. Most of Justice’s companies deal with mining and selling coal to power plants. Justice’s re-election campaign for governor was just recently endorsed by the West Virginia Coal Association. And last summer, Justice helped push through the Legislature a $12 million tax break for another wholesale power producer, the coal-fired Pleasants Power Plant.

“I absolutely believe that the gas industry and the downstream benefits of gas are our future in many many ways,” Justice said. “I am as pro-gas as I can possibly be with a good smart business head. Do we need additional generation in this state? If we close another plant for the betterment of this plant, are our ratepayers going to have to pay for years because the plant wasn’t paid off? We need a lot of questions answered. Our people are trying to get answers and work through those.

“There’s so many questions to be answered from the standpoint of whether these people can really get funding,” Justice said. “Or is the state going to be on the hook for a loan guarantee and just toast away $5 million dollars that we need for other things. Can they get the funding? Are they going to use West Virginia workers to build it? Is the gas going to come from West Virginia? There’s so many other things.”


See also: Gov. Justice clarifies remarks regarding Brooke County Power plant project | Weirton Daily Times, September 1, 2020

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Gazette - Mail September 9, 2020 at 11:24 pm

Development board approves loan guarantee for Brooke County Power plant

From an Article by Joe Severino, Charleston Gazette-Mail, September 9, 2020

The West Virginia Economic Development Authority on Wednesday unanimously approved a $5.5 million loan guarantee for the proposed Brooke County Power Plant project.

The authority’s approval checked one of the final boxes the project needed before construction can begin, which the original proposal projected would be in 2022.

A swarm of uncertainty surrounded the vote Wednesday. The authority was set to vote for approval of the loan guarantee during its Aug. 20 board meeting, but the item was pulled from the agenda without explanation and a clear reason was never given.

Members of the trades union, oil and gas industry and public, lawmakers and county commissioners were afraid that $5,518,865 was going to derail the entire near-billion dollar project. The coal industry tanked West Virginia’s first attempt to build the state’s first natural gas-fired power plant nearly four years ago, and some stakeholders said they feared it was going to happen again.

Many of these stakeholders spoke in support Wednesday during the meeting’s public comment period. No members of the public spoke against the project. The board went into executive session for nearly an hour to discuss the project before returning for a vote.

Authority board member Joe Eddy offered one amendment to the loan guarantee that altered one of the stipulations Gov. Jim Justice asked the authority to review, that the natural gas powering the plant must be from West Virginia.

The project’s site, in Colliers, Brooke County, sits just miles from the border with Pennsylvania. The developer’s plan is to connect the plant to the existing Rover Pipeline in Pennsylvania, because there is no pipeline in West Virginia that can reach Colliers.

“As part of the motion, I would ask that we amend stipulation No. 1 by removing the existing language and replace the existing language ‘with No. 1, use good-faith, best efforts to secure West Virginia-sourced natural gas for use in the plant,’ ” Eddy said.

The amendment passed 6-1, with board chairman Michael Graney voting against it. Graney could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

After the meeting, Brooke County Commissioner AJ Thomas said he was pleased with the authority’s decision. He said he believes the plant will serve as a catalyst for major economic growth in the region.

“We’re just very thankful that they took all the facts into consideration at the end of the day and did what was right for not just this region in the Northern Panhandle but the entire state,” Thomas said. “This sends a message that the state will be a good partner to any developing businesses here, and I think that it’s going to be something that we look back on and realize that’s what drove us forward 20 years from now.”

Drew Dorn, president of Energy Solutions Consortium, the company behind the project, wrote in a statement that the company is thankful for the approval.

“Brooke County Power wants to extend its appreciation for the vote of confidence by the West Virginia Economic Development Authority and special thanks those who spoke on behalf of the project, including the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the West Virginia Independent Oil and Gas Association, the Affiliated Construction Trades and numerous representatives of local trade unions — all who testified to the power plant utilizing local labor and local natural gas,” he wrote.

Construction is projected to infuse $1.25 billion into the local economy, and the facility’s annual economic impact is expected to top $440 million, according to an economic analysis conducted by former West Virginia University chief economist Tom Witt.

The facility would be West Virginia’s first natural gas-fired power plant, capable of powering the equivalent of 700,000 homes.

More than 1,000 construction workers are needed to build the plant. Officials estimate that the project will create 1,164 jobs related to maintenance, supplies and other services, once it’s built. The plant would require 30 full-time workers.


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