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October 10, 2012

North Beaver may get gas-fueled electricity plant

NEW CASTLE — Electricity generated by natural gas will be a wave of the future for Lawrence County.

Representatives of LS Power of St. Louis, Mo., presented plans Tuesday to build a $750 million electricity-generating plant in North Beaver Township that could serve the area for 30 years or more.

The facility would be fueled by natural gas drawn from a Tennessee gas pipeline about a mile away from the proposed plant, and will make use of shale gas being drilled from local properties that will be connected to that pipeline, explained Robert Colozza, LS senior vice president.

The company, which also has headquarters in East Brunswick, N.J., has chosen the former American Cyanamid property off Route 551 as the location for the combined single-process plant, which executives say will generate 900 megawatts of power, according to Colozza.

The plant will occupy 55 acres of the 350-acre site, and a substation will be built across the road, occupying a five-acre tract that is part of 100 acres.

The plant is expected to go into operation in 2016 or 2017.

The venture is expected to generate about 500 construction jobs that will last for about two years and about 25 permanent full-time plant jobs.

LOCAL BENEFITS

One reason the company chose North Beaver Township is new stringent air regulations that have resulted in coal-fired plants making plans to shut down in the next couple of years. One of those scheduled to close is the West Pittsburg plant, he said, which has capacity to generate only 300 megawatts of power.

The new plant, operating under the subsidiary name of Hickory Run Energy — named for a trout-stocked stream that runs through North Beaver Township — will be close to the Mahoning River. LS plans to use effluent water from the New Castle Sanitation Authority’s wastewater treatment plant as its primary water source.

David Wilson, an LS environmental engineer and environmental permitting specialist, explained the wastewater— about 5 million gallons per day — will be used in a cooling process and later will be drained back into the Mahoning River “so we will get the most use out of the water that we can.”

An acoustic study showed the potential noise to be, at most, in the 55-decibel range, meaning the sound will be limited to the inside of the plant, which will be about a quarter-mile off the road.

“We don’t expect noise to be an issue.”

From an economic standpoint, the plant will provide a lot of investment, employment and tax revenues, Wilson continued.

The company will purchase materials locally and use local contract services whenever possible, he said.

The plant will generate a $3 million annual payroll, in addition to providing at least $525,000 in annual property taxes to the Mohawk school district, $250,000 in annual property taxes for the county and $70,000 in taxes to be paid to North Beaver Township for the life of the plant, Wilson said.

Natural gas is clean-burning, does not generate a lot of air emissions and is efficient from a thermodynamic standpoint, he said. “It can generate a lot of electricity from a small land use.”

The planning commission gave the land development plan a conditional use after Wilson explained how the company plans to mitigate wetlands on the proposed site.

Initially, the company looked at property closer to Route 551 that would have involved 30 acres of wetlands. Instead, the company came up with a unique layout for the plant that shrinks the wetlands impact from 30 acres to less than one acre, Wilson said.

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