By Rusty Marks
July 12, 2018 - The president of a company proposing to build a 630-megawatt gas-fired power plant in Harrison County, Ohio is firing back at a grassroots organization trying to kill the plant.
“Natural-gas-fired power plants are being built in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia,” said Drew Dorn, director of ESC Harrison County Power LLC and president of Energy Solutions Consortium LLC.
The company wants to build the gas-fired power plant near Clarksburg.
This rendering shows what the proposed Harrison County Natural Gas Power Generation Facility will look like once it's complete.
“Power prices in those states are more affordable, and jobs are rising,” Dorn said. “It is not just the huge benefit during construction, but the industries that low power prices attract; the smelter in Kentucky, the shell cracker in Pennsylvania, the PPT Cracker in Ohio, all major projects and employers that should have been in West Virginia.”
Dorn alleges that “frivolous lawsuits” filed by the grassroots organization Ohio Valley Jobs Alliance are putting the plant and its associated jobs at risk.
In April, the Ohio Valley Jobs Alliance filed an appeal with the West Virginia Air Quality Board’s granting of an air permit for the Harrison County plant.
“There is no substance to the OVJA appeals, and its frivolous actions are only serving to delay job-producing, clean, economic investment in West Virginia,” Dorn said.
Dorn also alleges coal company Murray Energy, owned by Robert Murray, is behind the appeal and other legal action, and is bankrolling legal action. The Ohio Valley Jobs Alliance is also fighting gas-fired power plants near Moundsville and in neighboring Ohio.
“Murray Energy is trying to kill thousands of jobs on these projects,” Dorn said. “Murray Energy has made huge amounts of money off of natural gas in rights-of-way and other means, but when it comes to West Virginia natural gas making electricity, the company is trying to achieve through the courts what it could not through the marketplace.”
Murray Energy spokesman Michael T.W. Carey did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Jim Thomas, a retired coal miner listed with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office as treasurer of the Ohio Valley Jobs Alliance, also could not be reached for comment. But Thomas told The Wheeling Intelligencer newspaper in 2016 the organization is trying to protect coal-mining jobs.
“We will continue to fight back against the war on coal on all fronts and stand up for hard-working coal miners and their families,” Thomas said at the time. “We will continue to fight for our jobs and affordable coal-fired electricity for America.”
Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, is on the side of the Ohio Valley Jobs Alliance. The Coal Association has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in at least one of the Jobs Alliance’s court battles.
“We’re opposed to (the gas-fired power plants),” Raney said. “They’re working with the county commissions (on incentives) that exempt them from a bunch of taxes.”
Raney does not necessarily agree with arguments that gas-fired power plants produce electricity more cheaply than coal-fired plants.
“You have to look much deeper than what the fuel cost is,” Raney said. “It’s cheaper to build a gas plant. Gas is supposedly cheaper than coal.
“But a gas well may not have even one employee,” he said.
“We want to keep 200 coal miners working,” Raney said. “Whether that’s selfish or not, that’s what we’re in the business of doing.”
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