WELLSBURG – Beech Bottom Mayor Becky Uhlly is among local officials applauding efforts to build two gas-fired power plants near the former Wheeling Corrugating plant in the village. Uhlly noted the town was built for employees of Wheeling Steel and when the steel mill closed, the village became a depressed community. In recent years it has seen new development, including the opening of four businesses at the former corrugating plant. But Uhlly said news that a Buffalo-based energy company may build the plants on 100 acres north of the plant “is like the beginning of an era for our town. This is great.” Uhlly was present Tuesday when the Brooke County Commission signed two memorandums of understanding, one for each plant, that officials with the Energy Solutions Consortium said are needed to support plans to build the two plants. Officials with the company said each plant could bring up to 60 jobs with salaries of $80,000 as well as hundreds of jobs involved in constructing them. Curtis Wilkerson, spokesman for Energy Solutions, didn't know the amount of money that may be expended for the plants' construction but said a similar plant planned for Moundsville amounts to a $615 million investment, with a projected economic impact of more than $8 billion. Pat Ford, director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle – who was called for comment – said the plants also will attract additional industries to the area. “This really bodes well not only for the impact of the construction of these facilities, but also because of the industries that will want to be located close to them,” Ford said. Wilkerson cautioned that the company has “a long waiting game” ahead, as it must convince the PJM Interconnection of the projects' feasibility and secure state permits, including a certificate of need from the West Virginia Public Service Commission. Approval from the PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states, could take several months, he said. Wilkerson and Brian Helmick, attorney for Energy Solutions, both noted the company hasn't ruled out other potential sites for the plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania. But Matt Dorn, an owner of the company, told the commissioners, “This is the first step. It's a big step, and we're going to do everything we can to make these projects happen.” The Brooke County commissioners and leaders of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle said they are optimistic about the endeavor. Commission President Tim Ennis praised the efforts of Ford and BDC Assistant Director Marvin Six in bringing four businesses to the former corrugating plant within a few years and in attracting Energy Solutions to build north of it. Six stressed the new plants won't supplant businesses operating in the corrugating plant. “This is a plus. It's not a replacement of any economic development that's occurring at the site,” he said. Bill D'Alesio, chairman of the BDC's board of directors, and fellow board member John Frankovitch also credited Hackman Capital Partners of Los Angeles – which bought the property through bankruptcy proceedings for Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel and sold it to the BDC for future development – and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which awarded a $225,000 grant for the property's rehabilitation. Six said the proposed development is a good example of officials at various levels working together with private entities. “I think it's a perfect reflection of how you can get economic development in West Virginia,” he said. County Commissioner Jim Andreozzi said the site's proximity to two natural gas lines, the Ohio River and affordable barge transportation needed during the construction have been selling points for the project.
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