Work to lessen any threat to Valley’s energy projects
The stakes are far too high to allow any significant roadblock to stand in the way of the finish line for the Mahoning Valley’s largest industrial project in more than a half-century.
That project, the nearly $2 billion investment by Clean Energy Future of Boston in twin power plants in Lords- town, is projected to provide a $60 billion jolt to the local economy over the next 30 years and hundreds of jobs in the plants’ construction and operation.
Today Clean Energy stands about midway through construction of the $900 million Lordstown Energy Center on Henn Parkway in the Lordstown Industrial Park, just off state Route 45. Completion of that massive natural-gas-fueled power plant is scheduled for next summer.
Early this year, Clean Energy announced a second phase to the project, construction of a similar $1 billion electricity-generating facility near the first plant to be called the Trumbull Energy Center.
Combined, the projects represent the largest economic-development investment in the Mahoning Valley since General Motors broke ground on its sprawling car-assembly complex in Lordstown in 1964. CEF single- handedly was responsible for a whopping tenfold increase in private investment in the Valley last year – from $93 million in 2015 to $961 million in 2016, according to the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.
Clearly, that momentum and all it means to the future of our region must not be allowed to fizzle. Any and all threats to the project’s successful completion must be dealt with fully, fairly, responsibly and as expeditiously as possible.
VIENNA INVESTMENTS’ CONCERN
One such threat has surfaced from the Boardman-based Vienna Investments LLC, which owns the building in the same Lordstown Industrial Park where Chevrolet Cruze seating is manufactured to supply the nearby GM plant.
In a petition filed with the Ohio Siting Board, which is reviewing Clean Energy’s application for the second power plant, Vienna Investments has requested permission to intervene in a hearing with the company before the commission that is scheduled Aug. 10 in the offices of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in Columbus.
In its detailed filing, Vienna said it seeks to have its say in the decision-making process to “ensure that construction of the power station is done in a manner that is safe; that the construction and operation of the proposed power station does not adversely impact the safety of Vienna’s plant nor be disruptive to Vienna’s tenant or others in the Lordstown Industrial Park.”
To be sure, the investment company is well within its rights to raise issues of concern over the power-plant project. We would hope, however, that those concerns could be detailed more specifically to Clean Energy officials before the hearing and hashed out and resolved without posing any serious threats to the project’s timetable or to the project itself.
Bill Siderewicz, president of Clean Energy Future, said he has not heard of any complaints from workers at the seating plant or any others about any significant safety issues stemming from construction of the first plant.
Siderewicz points out as well that had there been any real dangers inherent to the plants, which are expected to produce power for 1.7 million Ohio homes and businesses, the state never would have approved plans for the first Lords-town Energy Center.
The onus therefore now falls on Vienna Investments to make its case. In addition to face-to-face talks with Clean Energy leaders, Vienna also could explain its concerns more fully at a state-sponsored public hearing on the project at 6 p.m. July 25 at Lordstown High School.
We’d also encourage those who support the project and who live in its shadow to show up and have their say as well at the hearing next week.
If indeed there are legitimate safety issues, then let them be aired, studied and resolved before construction on the second plant begins.
All must hope, however, that they do not become anything more than a minor stumbling block on the path to successful completion of this project charged with so much positive economic and environmental energy for the village and the Valley.