Plug pulled on third Lordstown power plant

Developer blames nuclear plant bailout

LORDSTOWN — A developer of two natural gas-fired power plants is blaming “political tampering” with Ohio’s electricity generation markets for the decision to abort plans for a third billion-dollar plant in the village.

Bill Siderewicz, president of Clean Energy Future LLC, said passage of House Bill 6 is what led him to terminate the third gas-to-power project. The legislation, signed into law July 23 by Gov. Mike DeWine nearly immediately after lawmaker approval, is viewed by detractors as a $1 billion financial rescue package for the state’s two ailing nuclear power plants.

Siderewicz testified against the bill in April, warning it would have a chilling effect in Ohio by forcing new investment outside of the state, which is what he said is happening now with his decision and LS Power backing away from a $500 million gas-fired project near Troy.

“Political tampering with Ohio’s free electricity generation markets has very real impacts and results, as we see happening now,” Siderewicz said Tuesday in a press release.

Nearly $1 million already has been spent to develop and get permits for the third plant, called Lordstown-3.

The financial losses of Lordstown-3, according to Siderewicz, include 1,100 new local union construction jobs; 2.6 million manhours over the next 34 months to build the plant; $150 million in water purchases from Youngstown; $300 million in local property and income taxes; and $29 billion in economic benefit to the Mahoning Valley over the next 50 years.

“Over the past six years, I have come to know and appreciate the strong will and moral fiber of those who call the Valley home, and today I find it deeply painful not to be able to help boost the region’s growth due to political forces that exist in Columbus,” Siderewicz said in the release.

State Sen. Sean J. O’Brien said the news is disappointing, but not fully unexpected based on Siderewicz’s testimony that the legislation would give an unfair competitive advantage to the nuclear plants.

O’Brien, D-Bazetta, and most other members of the Mahoning Valley delegation in the House and Senate voted against House Bill 6. The lone supporter was Republican Don Manning of New Middletown.

“This is certainly the reason I voted no on House Bill 6. I think it becomes dangerous when we are choosing which companies we are subsidizing and which ones we are not in a particular industry,” said state Rep. Gil Blair, D-Weathersfield.

The other two plants are the Lordstown Energy Center on Henn Parkway, of which Siderewicz is a minority partner, and the Trumbull Energy Center. The first plant began generating power in October 2018 while plans to begin building its sister plant are on track for later this year.

Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill said he hates to see the jobs lost because two other small businesses in the community recently shut down. Also, Lordstown was a victim of big job losses when General Motors idled its plant in the village in March.

Backed mostly by Republicans, the law will hand over $150 million per year through 2026 to the plants — Davis-Besse near Toledo and the Perry plant — in order to keep them operating. It also will scale back and eventually end requirements that utilities generate more power from wind and solar.

Without the cash infusion from customers, FirstEnergy Solutions, which is going through bankruptcy reorganization, warned the plants would be shut down within two years.

Supporters say the nuclear plants account for nearly all of Ohio’s clean energy, employ a combined 1,400 workers and generate millions in taxes for schools and services. They also said eliminating existing mandates meant to increase investment in renewable energy will result in lower electricity bills despite the new surcharge for the nuclear plants.

The final version called for residential customers to pay 85 cents each month and for major industrial plants to pay $2,400 on their electricity bills. While most of the money will go toward the nuclear plants, about $20 million annually will go to large-scale solar projects already approved.

The legislation also allows for monthly surcharges on all bills that will prop up two coal-fired power plants, including one in Indiana.

Siderewicz said the bill is a “classic case of ‘Ohio Main Street bailing out Wall Street,'” in the release.