The Mountain State’s TRUSTED news source.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.


Learn more about HD Media

Feedback was divided between welcoming potential economic benefits and decrying feared environmental perils at a public comment meeting on a proposed air quality permit for a natural gas-fired power plant in Monongalia County.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection held the meeting virtually Tuesday evening on the permit requested by Longview Power’s Mountain State Clean Energy LLC for the facility planned to be located immediately north of the Longview coal-fired plant in Maidsville.

The project is slated to be a gas-fired, combined-cycle plant that will supply electricity to the power grid, linking to it via an interconnection used by the coal-fired plant.

The West Virginia Division of Air Quality’s preliminary evaluation found that the project as proposed will meet all applicable state rules and federal regulations, prompting the division’s preliminary determination to approve the air quality application.

Area union officials pushed state environmental regulators to keep leaning in that direction. They argue that constructing the plant would create critical jobs for their members.

“[T]he job opportunities [are] huge. I would like to add that the jobs created will be good-paying jobs, with important retirement and health care benefits,” said Natalie Stone, representative of the Morgantown-based North Central West Virginia Building Trades Council.

The proposed gas-fired plant is projected to emit 5.13 million tons of greenhouse gases, 321 tons of nitrogen oxide, 276 tons of carbon monoxide and 210 tons of particulate matter per year, according to a permit application prepared for the DEP by Ambient Air Quality Services Inc., a Pennsylvania-based air quality consulting firm.

Opponents of the project objected to what they said were troubling discrepancies and inadequate air quality protection measures in the proposed permit as well as the project’s proposed greenhouse climate emissions that would contribute to the climate crisis.

The International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization consisting of 30 member countries, said in May that investors should not fund any new coal, oil or natural gas projects if the world is to reach net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

Earth must meet the mid-century deadline to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avert the worst effects of climate change, the agency reiterated in a road map for the global energy sector that included the new recommendation to end all new fossil fuel projects.

James Kotcon, chairman of the West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club’s conservation committee, observed that a draft permit for the facility lists the facility’s total electrical generating capacity as 1,300 megawatts, while a DEP preliminary determination and fact sheet for the facility notes that the facility’s electricity generation capability is 1,200 megawatts.

DEP spokesman Terry Fletcher indicated after the meeting that the figure was an approximate value, adding that the output will vary based on power efficiencies and operating conditions.

A PowerPoint presentation that Division of Air Quality engineer Edward Andrews showed describing the project indicated that the plant would be a 1,200-megawatt facility.

Area resident Duane Nichols argued that it would be environmentally unjust for the plant to be located near West Virginia University medical facilities, health centers and other sites of importance. Two facilities Nichols mentioned, the WVU Eye Institute and Mountaineer Field, are roughly 10 miles away from the proposed facility location.

“You can’t find a worse location in the entire state of West Virginia,” Nichols contended.

Those anticipated emission levels are all well above federal significance levels, subjecting the plant to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Prevention of Significant Deterioration regulations. That designation requires installation of emissions-limitation technology, air quality analysis, an additional impacts analysis assessing the effects of air, ground and water pollution, as well as public comment on permits and citizen enforcement actions against sources not complying with their permits.

Project opponents questioned the “clean energy” part of Mountain State Clean Energy’s name during the meeting.

“When I see a company that calls themselves Mountain State Clean Energy and then ask for 5 million tons of greenhouse gas [emissions], who do they think they’re fooling?” Kotcon asked.

Mountain State Clean Energy will need to apply for a water pollution permit for the site or modify an existing one to include the new gas-fired turbine, Fletcher said.

Located 3,000 feet west of the Monongahela River, the site is slated to operate two pipeline-gas compressor units. The application indicates that no greenhouse gas emissions will be associated with starting up, shutting down or operating the units.

The proposed start-up date for the facility is Jan. 1, 2025, according to the DEP.

Mountain State Clean Energy LLC formally changed its name from Longview Power II LLC in November. That name change came seven months after the West Virginia Public Service Commission issued a certificate to the company to construct and operate the gas-fired facility and a 70-megawatt utility-scale solar facility — 20 megawatts to be located in West Virginia and 50 megawatts in Pennsylvania.

The commission also approved construction and installation of a 500-kilovolt electric transmission line extending approximately three quarters of a mile north from the gas-fired facility.

Longview Power II LLC and Longview Renewable Power LLC, a separate company granted the solar siting certificate that subsequently changed its name to Mountain State Renewables LLC, estimated that the cost to construct the gas-fired facility would be $1.1 billion, according to the Public Service Commission.

The Monongalia County Commission approved a 30-year, $58 million payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with the Longview parties in December 2020.

The Division of Air Quality will take public comments until Mon., Nov. 1 at 5 p.m. and subsequently take final action on the application.

Written comments may be emailed to Edward.S.Andrews@wv.gov, with “Mountain State Clean Energy Comments” in the subject line, or mailed to Edward Andrews, WV Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Air Quality, 601 57th Street, SE, Charleston, WV 25304.

Additional information on the project proposal can be found at https://dep.wv.gov/daq/permitting/Pages/NSR-Permit-Applications.aspx.

Mike Tony covers energy and the environment. He can be reached at 304-348-1236 or mtony@hdmediallc

.com. Follow @Mike__Tony on Twitter.

Recommended for you