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Power plant project needs support

During the last few years, discussions have been held about a possible natural gas-fueled 830-megawatt power plant, with plans to construct it in an eastern portion of Brooke County just north of the Cross Creek area.

The company working on the proposed plant — Energy Solutions Consortium — has been laying the groundwork for some time, entering into tax agreements with local governmental entities and offering assistance on upgrades to utility operations in portions of the county.

Those agreements include $433,000 per year in taxes to the county and $167,000 per year to the Brooke County school district. The Brooke County Public Service District has a $4 million agreement to upgrade its water and sewer systems in order to better serve the plant. The Wellsburg sewer department also will receive help in updating its wastewater treatment facilities.

New jobs will be created, with temporary construction jobs needed as the plant is built, and then permanent positions once it is opened. New jobs mean additional tax revenue for the county and the state, along with the possibility of spin-off businesses and jobs. That sounds like a chance for progress for the Northern Panhandle.

It appears, however, some at the state level, including Gov. Jim Justice seem unsure of the opportunity.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Brooke Commission, officials revealed the state Economic Development Authority hasn’t agreed to a $5.6 million loan guarantee, creating a stumbling block and possibly putting the plant in jeopardy from ever happening.

Wednesday, Justice expressed concern as to whether the job numbers discussed were accurate, as well as the source of the natural gas to be used in operating the power plant. He said the project isn’t dead, but feels there are too many questions still needing answered.

It shouldn’t take long to get those answers, especially since this project has been on the drawing board for quite some time.

To us, the benefits of this project far outweigh any potential risks, and we encourage state officials to take all of that into account when making their decision.

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