Senator confident $1B power plant will be a boon to area
Author: Michael Lester
Source: Press Enterprise
SALEM TWP. – State Sen. John Gordner fondly recalled 1979, the year he graduated from Berwick High School.
That same year, construction began on PPL’s nuclear power plant, which remains today as a local economic engine employing over 1,000.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime project for our region,” recalled Gordner, who will soon turn 54. “We’re lucky enough – some 35 years later – to have lightning strike twice.”
At Thursday’s groundbreaking, Gordner predicted a nearly $1 billion, natural gas-fueled power plant along Mingle Inn Road, a few miles north of the nuclear plant, will likewise have a “tremendous effect on our region.”
Contractors, including Don E. Bower Construction of Berwick, have started moving dirt on the 150 acres where the Caithness Moxie Freedom Generation Plant will be constructed over nearly three years.
Bower sold 35 of those acres, located near the Transco natural gas pipeline and the Susquehanna nuclear plant’s transmission lines, to Vienna, Va.-based Moxie for the project. Moxie, which is building nearly identical power plants in Lycoming and Bradford counties, is the original developer of the Salem Township project.
It was later joined by Caithness Energy, a decades-old New York City firm that specializes in operation and management of power plants.
Caithness’ energy portfolio includes a natural gas-fired plant that produces more than 20 percent of the electricity generated on Long Island.
‘I met this Bower guy’
The joint venture between Caithness Moxie will have to pay to connect to the nuclear plant’s transmission lines to sell electricity generated by the natural gas plant to a projected 900,000 customers.
Moxie CEO Aaron Samson, introduced Thursday as “the father of this project” by Caithness executive Ross Ain, singled out Bower as an instrumental local cog who got this project off the ground.
Samson said he was scouting for land for a plant in Salem Township and studying township zoning regulations in 2013.
“Then, I met this Bower guy,” Samson recalled. “The township has been very supportive.”
Actually, quite a few residents living near the future plant have expressed opposition to the project, expressing concerns about air pollution, loud operations and draining of the local groundwater supply.
“We’ll do our best to keep the neighborhood happy,” Samson said.
Jobs paying $40G
Ain promised the plant would use “domestic natural gas and (produce) the lowest possible emissions and noise.
“It will be difficult to detect over background noise,” he added. “With modern technology, it really is not a noisy operation.
“And it will use 99 percent less water than conventional power plants.”
The plant is projected to be completed and begin operations in the spring of 2018.
During the 34-month construction, the project will employ a peak workforce of 600, good for an $80 million payroll.
A traffic signal at Route 11 and Mingle Inn Road has been installed to help handle the increased traffic.
Once the plant is up and running, it will employ a permanent workforce of 25, making an average of $40,000 per year.