ORIGINAL (1/6/2020 9:20 p.m.)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In October, Longview Power announced plans to expand their facilities, but fast forward a few months and environmental activists want to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Activists gathered outside the Monongalia County Courthouse for a press conference and as a means to voice their complaints about Longview’s plans to expand by adding on natural gas and solar power to their clean coal operations.
They were angered by what they said would be very negative environmental impacts on the quality of air and life if the natural gas plant goes into operation.
James Kotcon, one of the event organizers, is the conservation chair of the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, an environmental organization. Kotcon, like the other speakers, said he didn’t want Longview to receive any county or state level tax breaks for their expansion because it wouldn’t be worth it.
“It already has far more fossil fuel capacity than it needs,” explained Kotcon. “Building additional fossil fuel capacity locks us in continued emissions and does not resolve the issue with climate change. We must be reducing our greenhouse gas emissions much faster than a simple transition from one fossil fuel to another. We need to get to zero emissions by 2050.”
Kotcon is using 2050 as a deadline because that is the date the United Nations climate scientists provided for Earth to be carbon neutral before there’s no turning back.
Carbon neutrality means having technology that captures all the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases or not producing any greenhouse gases, either way resulting in zero emissions.
One of the ways to head toward that future is through renewable energy production, like solar power. Although it is included in Longview’s plan, Kotcon and other activists said it was not enough.
“If you read the application carefully the plans for building the solar plant are very ambiguous,” Kotcon said. “As we pointed out, they don’t have a labor agreement and so on. The biggest issue is that the fossil fuel is supposed to generate 1200 megawatts, the solar farm will generate 20 megawatts. The solar farm is definitely a step in the right direction, the fossil fuel plant is not.”
He said they have asked the Monongalia County Commission to require some form of carbon capture technology for the natural gas plant if Longview is going to receive a tax break. At this point, Kotcon said, Longview has not included any greenhouse gas controls in its plans, leaving them completely unregulated.
Longview was contacted but have not provided a statement by the time this story was written.
UPDATE (1/7/2020 2:25 p.m.)
On Tuesday, January 7, Longview Power released a following statement.
Statement from Jeff Keffer, chief executive officer of Longview Power, concerning the Mon Valley Clean Air Coalition and West Virginia Sierra Club’s January 6th news conference regarding the Longview Power Clean Energy Center:
“The proposed Longview Power Clean Energy Center will be a global model for clean fossil and renewable energy development. The project consists of a 1,200-mega-watt (MW) gas-fired combined cycle power plant and a 70-MW, utility grade solar installation. Longview Power currently operates one of the cleanest coal-fired power plants in the world.
Unfortunately, even though this will be one of the cleanest power facilities in the world, some activist organizations are working to block the issuance of a siting certificate by the West Virginia Public Service Commission and prohibit development of the project. They have made it their mission to eradicate not just coal but now gas-fueled electricity generation and to prevent new facilities from being built.
The new combined cycle gas turbine unit will be one of the cleanest gas-fired generating facilities in the country. The solar installation will be the biggest project of its kind in West Virginia and one of the largest in Appalachia.
The Longview Power Clean Energy Center represents an investment of $1.1 billion and will create 5,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction. The facility will pay an additional $2 million annually in PILOT and tax payments, over and above the $3 million currently generated by the coal plant. Longview expects to add more than 30 additional skilled, high-paying power generation jobs to operate the expansion facilities.
The undeveloped property that the expansion projects will be sited on in West Virginia is owned by Longview and currently generates very little tax revenue for Monongalia County. Additionally, Longview controls sufficient property in Pennsylvania that could be used for the gas and solar plants, while paying much lower taxes, should a PSC siting certificate not be issued.
The project enjoys widespread support and is a project Monongalia County residents and the citizens of West Virginia will be proud of.”