MAIDSVILLE, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection held a hearing Tuesday focused on a proposed expansion of a natural gas-fired power facility in Monongalia County.
The forum focused on a $1.1 billion expansion of the Longview Power facility, which currently a 700 megawatt plant and employs 150 full-time workers. The power produced at Longview is distributed through PJM Interconnection across a 13-state region serving 65 million people.
Longview Power is seeking an air quality permit for the expansion.
Shane Ferguson, a representative of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union, argued for the expansion, saying the facility would attract young electricians looking for their first jobs.
“It’s a lifelong career for a lot of apprentices,” he said. “We have apprentices that are now journeymen who started their career on the original project on that site.”
Bryan Raber with the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union said the project would result in the creation of hundreds of construction jobs and other positions supporting workers.
“The project is a huge job creator for the local workers,” he said. ” With the owner’s written commitment to hire local union construction workers and a payroll during construction of over $110 million, it would not only benefit the workers and their families but the community.”
Residents of the Cheat Lake area spoke against the proposal; Duane Nichols said the state should reject the permit application because of the facility’s proposed location near Monongalia County hospitals and schools.
“The location puts it in a special category and that any measure of environmental quality and environmental justice would disqualify it on that basis,” he said.
Betsy Lawson talked about the current effects of fossil fuel burning in her community, including how acid rain has affected forests near her home.
“Every day, I walk along Sugar Grove Road and many of the trees I see are sick or dead,” she said. “Adding more pollution does not just affect the Fort Martin community, but the entire eastern seaboard.”
James Kotcon, the chairman of the West Virginia Sierra Club Conservation Committee, said the expansion would add a fossil fuel facility to the state during a time when West Virginia should be embracing renewable energy generation.
“Any new facility like this is planning to run for many many years,” he said. “We simply can’t tolerate that if we’re going to protect our climate.”
The Department of Environmental Protection will accept written public comments through Nov. 1. Interested people can send comments to Edward Andrews, WV Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Air Quality, 601 57th Street, SE, Charleston, WV 25304. People may also email comments to Edward.S.Andrews@wv.gov.