Oregon officials back gas-fired power plant plans

Economic impact stressed at hearing


A natural gas-fired power plant planned for Oregon will be a boon for the city and surrounding area, a succession of officials said at a public hearing last week.

They believe it would be a welcome replacement for the FirstEnergy Corp. Bay Shore facility, which has been mostly shut down, and a good corporate citizen.

The hearing — held by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency at the University of Toledo Lake Erie Center in Oregon — heard comments on a draft air pollution permit for the Oregon Clean Energy LLC project. Construction is expected to start in late spring of 2014, with the plant slated to be operational in February of 2017. The developer hopes the final air pollution permit will be issued in early June.

Oregon Mayor Mike Seferian said he was approached with the project about two years ago, and that he and city administrator Mike Beazley visited a Fremont generating plant similar to the one proposed.

“We could come up with no problems this would cause for Oregon,” he said, adding that he’s yet to receive negative comments about the project from citizens.

North American Project Development LLC, a Boston-based energy group, is developing the $850 million project, which will be located on a 30-acre site at 816 Lallendorf Rd. The plant will have a 799 megawatt capacity and generate electricity by means of a high-efficiency combined cycle gas turbine. Managing partner William Martin said his group is deciding whether to buy equipment made by Siemens or Mitsubishi.

The Oregon Clean Energy plant will employ 25 once online and use an estimated 500 to 550 workers from the construction trades while it is being built, Mr. Martin said. Construction will involve close to 1.5 million worker hours.

“We’re committed to using union labor and as many local and regional and contractors as we can,” Mr. Martin said.

The plant is expected to generate more than $800 million in economic activity in its first 20 years, but the financial benefit to Oregon has not been calculated. Mr. Beazley said Oregon would realize income from the 2.25 percent payroll tax paid by construction workers.

Oregon Councilman Jim Seaman told the 30 attendees at the hearing that the construction phase would mean work for many tradesmen who live there and that the gas-fired generation plant would be “environmentally better” than the Bay Shore plant. FirstEnergy closed the coal-burning part of the plant because of environmental standards.

“This plant fills the gap, no question,” Mr. Seaman said. “This is a win-win situation.”

But Ron Eichold, a charter captain from Oak Harbor, expressed concern about the volume of water the plant would draw from Lake Erie to make steam. The plant will use up to 5 million gallons per day, an amount Mr. Eichold said could deplete the fish population.

“The fishery out there also is a major industry,” he explained.

Mike Jay, Fremont’s director of economic development, said the Fremont Energy Center has had “a tremendous economic impact on the city of Fremont, Sandusky County, and northwest Ohio.”

He said the same team putting together the Oregon project had done Fremont’s, and it “had a genuine concern for the community. I congratulate Oregon and wish you the best of luck.”

— Carl Ryan