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Pullout of third power plant is big local loss

It was just about a month ago when the Tribune Chronicle reported about the possibility of a third natural gas-fired power plant coming to Trumbull County.

Now, however, the plug has been pulled on that third plant. A developer linked that decision directly to recent passage of Ohio House Bill 6 which allows financial help to be funneled to FirstEnergy Solutions to help fund operations at its two bankrupt nuclear power plants, but provides no assistance to the new and planned local gas-fired power plants.

The decision is just one more blow to potential economic growth in the Mahoning Valley. It also means the loss of a power-generating plant to help accommodate the ever-growing need for electricity in our nation.

The first of the three Lordstown plants, the 940-megawatt, $900 million Lordstown Energy Center, has been up and running for nearly a year now with the ability to produce enough power to supply approximately 850,000 homes and businesses with electricity.

A twin sister plant, Trumbull Energy Center, is proposed for construction right next door.

Now, however, Bill Siderewicz, president of Clean Energy Future who has been intricately involved in the planning for all three plants, says the plug is being pulled on the proposed third plant.

Siderewicz had been moving forward with the idea of the third plant on an unnamed Trumbull County location. By June 7, he already had applied to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for permits needed to install and operate an air pollution source for a third Trumbull County plant referred to as “Meander Energy Center.” The EPA acknowledged that the agency was reviewing the documentation to consider approval.

Then, last month, the state legislature voted to approve House Bill 6 and it was signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine. The new law allows for about $1 billion to go to nuclear power plants located near Toledo and Cleveland in order to keep them open and operating. Without the cash infusion from customers, FirstEnergy Solutions, which is going through bankruptcy reorganization, warned those two nuclear power plants would be shut down within two years.

At the time, Trumbull County legislators Rep. Gil Blair, D-Weathersfield and Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Warren, spoke out against the bill. In the statehouse, they, and state Rep. Michele LePore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, voted “no” on its passage. State Rep. Don Manning, R-New Middletown, voted yes.

In April, Siderewicz had testified against the bill, 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.

The cancellation of plans for this third local plant is quite a blow to our area. It is unfortunate for skilled trades workers who would have been called on to build the third plant, for suppliers, for potential workers, for nearby cities that would have seen millions of dollars in revenue gains through taxation and the sale of water, for local school districts that would have seen significant revenue, not to mention everyone who benefits from the trickle-down effects to the economy.

Siderewicz puts the lost value at $29 billion in economic benefit to the Mahoning Valley over the next 50 years.

It also is unfortunate for all of us who rely on a sufficient supply of electricity to the electric grid in this country, even as demand increases daily.

editorial@tribtoday.com

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