The $800 million power plant proposed for Lordstown creates an enormous opportunity for the village and the school district, but everyone should also keep in mind the tremendous impact this could have on the entire Mahoning Valley.
The 57-acre plot at 1107 Salt Springs Road, close to existing power lines, needs rezoned for Clean Energy Future to have a chance of building in Lordstown. If it succeeds, the company would pay between $1 million and $1.5 million in taxes to the village each year and offer $30,000 per year scholarships for high school students for 15 years.
That's why the school board president and many others want the zoning commission, which meets May 12, to approve the change. Some others, however, oppose the project.
A similar plant in Fremont, in northwest Ohio, is considered a rousing success for the community. The clean, well-maintained complex is a far cry from the intimidating cooling towers of a nuclear power plant. Nonetheless, a group from Lordstown will be touring that plant and meeting with officials and citizens from the community to discuss the pros and cons. That's a wise trip.
Meanwhile, think about all the people and local companies anxiously awaiting the zoning commission decision. For example, Warren Fabricating makes gas and steam turbines that could be constructed in the plant. Valley Electric provides work on power plants. Steel and Allow in McDonald is another local firm that has a background in power plant construction.
Then there is the long-term benefit to the much-anticipated but slowed oil and natural gas boom in Trumbull and Mahoning counties. The power plant would be a massive user of methane, which reports indicate is in abundance in the Utica Shale here. Since methane fetches such a low price, shipping it to customers in other parts of the nation makes it a losing proposition for oil and natural gas companies. But a large customer in Trumbull County could change the playing field.
Let's think about some of the comments West Virginia Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said during a speech earlier this year. He was speaking at the Marcellus to Manufacturing Ethane Development Conference at the Charleston Civic Center.
Burdette focused heavily on Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia working together to transform their economies through natural gas extraction. He echoed many local leaders who over the years have championed the cause of creating infrastructure to bring the product to market, and the cause of bringing the customers here, close to the product. That way, when the drillers leave, a large, permanent job base stays local for decades or longer.
As Burdette said, ''... we cannot and will not simply be an energy colony for the rest of the country when the opportunity to be so much more is clearly within our grasp.''
Burdette added, ''The resources that we are talking about are vast ... some of the largest deposits in the world. There is much to share. We understand that the dynamics and economics driving this industry are complicated and the needs are great. We appreciate that these resources have direct impacts on many regions of this country ... on the economy of this country, itself. Even now it's playing a pivotal role in foreign policy.''
He pointed out how many companies want to make investments in the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia region, yet there are frequent announcements about shipping the Utica and Marcellus resources elsewhere ''to create jobs elsewhere in other parts of this country and other parts of the world.''
This is the key:
''An opportunity to do more than just extract - but an opportunity to create. Long after the drilling rigs and the jobs they bring are gone, they will be pumping gas and natural gas liquids from across our state and our region. We must be part of the industry that will use those resources for generations to produce value-added products and create jobs for our citizens.''
The proposed Clean Energy Future power plant in Lordstown is a value-added commodity that makes drilling here more attractive.