Second power project in Lordstown dries up
Developer says work will stop after board doesn’t approve water connection to Warren
LORDSTOWN — The developer of a second natural gas-fired power plant here said work on the nearly $1 billion project will stop immediately without a water service connection with Warren, which the facility doesn’t have after a decision Tuesday.
“We’re not doing any more work on it,” said Bill Siderewicz, president of Clean Energy Future, the company behind the plant known as Trumbull Energy Center. “The BPA (board of public affairs) would have to reconvene and think of another option because without Warren’s water, we don’t have a project. We have said this so many times over and over again, it’s almost like a broken record.”
The three-person board, which is responsible for water and wastewater utility management in Lordstown, refused to consider a motion that would have allowed Trumbull Energy Center to get its water from Warren.
Board President Kevin Campbell moved to accept the connection; however, the matter died when neither of the remaining two members, Michael Sullivan or Chris Peterson, moved to second the motion.
Causing the roadblock apparently is a bid by the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District to bring water to the village project.
“At this point, it’s up to the man running the project either to say I can’t put this back together with an MVSD option or he can,” Campbell said. “That is the simplest place of where it is. He (Siderewicz) expressed many avenues that it’s not an option for him with what he has built and that it’s going to kill the project, and I guess only time will tell.”
MVSD is a bulk-water distributor to Youngstown, Niles and McDonald that serves about 220,000 customers in Trumbull and Mahoning counties. It sells water to those communities that then sell it to other communities.
Its chief engineer, Michael McNinch, said Tuesday MVSD is best positioned to make the power plant happen as soon as possible. MVSD, he said, has a 24-inch line already in Lordstown with enough capacity to serve the plant.
“If you make this agreement with Warren for one particular entity, what is to stop the next entity from coming in, the shipyard — the shipyard can come in and say we want Newton Falls water, we’re going to get an agreement with Newton Falls. The JEDD (joint economic development district) that’s going in on Bailey Road could say we want Portage County water, we’re going to Portage County to make an agreement,” McNinch said. “None of those things benefit Lordstown as a whole. I want to make sure everybody understands that if you go with Niles, if you go with MVSD, you are benefiting everybody, all your existing customers, all your future customers.”
McNinch also said MVSD would not install a second 24-inch service line in the village with the energy center as an end user.
Right now, Niles has three waterlines running into Lordstown — a small, medium and large. What MVSD is proposing is to eliminate the small line and replace it with a new 24-inch line, which “gives redundancy and future capacity going forward for everything,” but MVSD won’t commit and risk having existing customers subsidize the line if it doesn’t break even.
Siderewicz said he met with Lordstown council and other invited guests, including BPA members and at least one Warren official, in executive session Thursday to present to them why the Warren waterline would benefit the energy center and the village.
It, he said, would have extra capacity, allowing Lordstown to resell the water.
“We mentioned to them we are 99.9 percent complete with the financing for the Trumbull project and wanted to move on to the construction phase. And they said, ‘Can you stop what you are doing and somehow entertain an MVSD concept?'” Siderewicz said. “I said, ‘Well, that is somewhat analogous to asking a super tanker to somehow stop after being under full sail, turning around and going in the opposite direction.’
“That takes a long time when you have a super tanker, and it’s going to take a long time in our case because we have investors, we have lenders who have done due diligence based on the Warren concept, so if you keep delaying the project, the permits we have end up expiring and also, in essence, would send our investors and our lenders away from the project, so you would have a dead project if you went down the MVSD route.”
Siderewicz said discussions with Warren started in 2017. In July, the village, he said, was at the negotiating table with Warren and Clean Energy Future.
“It’s not like Clean Energy Future poked around in the dark and wouldn’t tell anyone what was going on,” Siderewicz said. “We had the village of Lordstown at our side the entire way, and it’s MVSD who came in literally a couple weeks ago and said, ‘Hey, we have a new idea.’ And we said, ‘Well, that new idea really doesn’t fit what we are doing; we can’t even accommodate it.'”
McNinch said MVSD has reached out multiple times to the developer, but Siderewicz hasn’t returned the calls.
“MVSD and Niles have come to all the public meetings and, to my knowledge, he has never come to a public meeting to comment or produce any documentation,” McNinch said.
Siderewicz said that is “absolutely silliness.”
“We have been having conversations with them that go back over a year” when Jim Jones was chief engineer, Siderewicz said.
The discussion then, Siderewicz said, was to install a new line from MVSD to Lordstown and bypass Niles, which would have meant a charter change. That, however, never happened.
Siderewicz said he would not come back to Lordstown BPA to change their minds.
“I think they need to self-examine. They are the ones losing $85-and-a-half million a year and the local community is losing 1,000 jobs,” he said. “It’s up to them to look in the mirror and say, ‘We’re not going to get the new pipeline, and we’re not going to get the project. Wow, that’s really stupid.'”
The plant over its life was expected to generate about $85 million in income and property taxes for Lordstown, which also would have a received a yearly $480,000 service fee. It’s estimated about 1,200 local workers would have built the plant.
Marty Loney, president of the Western Reserve Building Trades, which represents more than 9,000 building trades workers in 26 locals, supported the agreement with Warren.
Building the first plant — Lordstown Energy Center — means about 2.5 million man hours of work for local trades workers, he said.
“I can understand the part with MVSD, that makes perfect sense to me for the future, but right now, we have an opportunity before us that we have to make a decision on to put some folks to work,” Loney said. “What we have right now is choices and opportunities. One of those choices that is going to be made today are going to mean opportunities for the rest of the building trades, so I would like to stand and support to bring in that water and get this job going.”