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Residents oppose energy plant near Williamsport

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Trish Bennett, Editor

Duncan McEachern, senior director of development for NTE Energy, faced about 70 angry residents Monday at the Monroe Township Trustee meeting in Five Points. (Photo by Trish Bennett)

FIVE POINTS – About 70 local residents filled the Monroe Township House on Monday to voice strong opposition to a proposed energy plant in the Westfall Local School District.

“If I paraphrase [your reaction] correctly, ‘Hell, no’ is close?” said Duncan McEachern, senior director of development for NTE Energy, after residents spent more than 90 minutes of the township trustee meeting arguing against the company’s plan.

With approval of the Monroe Township Trustees, NTE Energy has been exploring the possibility over about the past 30 days of building a $900 million power generation facility within the township. Officials also have been meeting with area land owners to discuss purchasing property for the development.

The news did not sit well with residents, who said they only learned of the plan through word of mouth in the past few days after a local land owner was made an offer for property.

They also worry that such a development could happen without local government approval if the land can be secured by NTE Energy. That is a question that remains unanswered but currently is being explored by the Pickaway County Commissioners and Prosecutor’s Office.

The proposed facility would tie into existing natural gas pipelines and power lines to generate electricity to sell on a wholesale basis, McEachern said. Water consumption, estimated at six to eight million gallons per day, would be achieved by pumping wastewater from the city of Columbus to the site, where it would be treated for the use of the plant.

The facility would temporarily employ about 300 people during its construction, then only about 25 permanent workers once it goes into operation, McEachern said.

It would feature 60-foot-tall towers and exhaust stacks for the combustion of natural gas that are estimated to stand 160 to 190 feet tall.

The plant would be regulated by the Ohio EPA, he said.

McEachern said NTE Energy had explored 25 different sites in southeastern Ohio, but the Monroe Township site rated the highest based on scoring criteria involving 16 different elements. One of its most desirable features is the existing infrastructure of natural gas and power lines, he said.

Residents expressed concerns about noise levels and light pollution, as well as increased heavy traffic in and out of the facility on roadways that are not built for that kind of traffic. They also discussed environmental concerns, everything from the effects on local wildlife to chemical run-off from the plant that could seep into area water wells.

Residents also raised the issue of spills, malfunctions or fires at the plant in an area where all the local fire departments are volunteer.

Two primary concerns expressed at Monday’s meeting involved the property values for homeowners in the area, which residents believe would plummet if a power generating plant was placed in their back yards, as well as the impact of such a facility on the health and safety of students in the Westfall Local School District, which would be within a mile of the proposed site.

McEachern said he was unprepared to answer specific questions at Monday’s trustee meeting, but NTE Energy expects to host an open house for area residents within the next 60 days to answer questions and provide as much information as possible on the proposed site. The date and time of the meeting will be publicly announced when it becomes available.

In the meantime, area residents are circulating a petition against the plant and have formed a “No to the Power Plant Williamsport” Facebook group that currently has 1,287 members.

This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal