Federal delegates promise their support –
By Patricia Beech –
In a continuing show of bipartisan support, Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) agreed to facilitate a meeting between Adams County officials and DP&L’s parent company, AES.
The decision came on the heels of a meeting between the senators and Adams County Commissioner Ty Pell, who last week traveled to Washington DC, along with representatives from the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) including: Greg Adams, John Arnett, Brandon Grooms, John Duffy, Ryan Meadows, and Kelly Cooper. Mike Pell, President of First State Bank, was also present.
“We’re making sure the interests of Adams County are being heard loud and clear in both the statehouse and the halls of Congress,” said Commissioner Pell. “We are continuing to work with state and federal officials to obtain answers and come up with solutions as our community plans for the future.”
The group presented three primary goals to the senators: Extend the life of the power plants, receive assistance to expedite infrastructure development to attract new jobs and businesses to Adams County, and receive a commitment from plant owners, or the state of Ohio, that our community will not be left with an ecological abscess that could devastate the local environment and bury the local economy in the ash pits left behind by the utility giant.
Will AES listen? To date, neither DP&L or AES have been receptive to meeting with county officials.
Commissioner Pell says he and other county leader are not dissuaded by the company’s cold shoulder treatment.
“We will continue to engage any and all that will listen – we will keep telling our story until someone hears us,” he said.
Under pressure from government regulations and environmental groups, DP&L in mid-March signaled in a filing before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) that it was moving further away from the use of coal as a power source.
The company said in the filing it will commit to selling its ownership in three coal-fired generation stations while setting up a $2 million economic development fund for Adams County.
Within 60 days of PUCO approval, DP&L said it will work with county officials to identify a third-party to administer the economic development grants.
According to the filing, the funds will be used specifically for economic development activities, workforce development, and direct financial education assistance for job training for DP&L employees who work at generation stations in Adams and Brown counties.
According to a company official, DP&L agrees to collaborate with local and statewide development organizations to identify and promote potential economic development in Adams and Brown counties.
Mike Pell says he believes the utility giant’s best interest would be served by keeping both the Stuart and Killen plants open and operational.
“AES can continue to make their investment in Adams County profitable – their diversification on power generation production would be complemented by keeping our power plants open,” he said. “AES still has several active coal-fired plants in their portfolio, so I’m not for sure why our two plants in Adams County are being singled out to be closed.”
Pell says he believes it is essential that elected officials be made aware of Adams County’s plight.
“We want to make sure that Senator Portman and Senator Brown are well aware of our issues,” he said. “We’re really reaching out for some assistance to see what they can do on the federal level to help us accomplish our goals.”
The trip to the nation’s capitol follows many similar trips to the statehouse in Columbus.
On March 24 several representatives from JobsOhio, Commissioners Pell and Baldridge, and the Adams County Department of Economic Development met to explore options for growth.
Two weeks later the commissioners and 80 concerned county residents traveled to the state capitol to meet with Laura Factor from the Ohio EPA. Discussion centered around coal combustion residuals and how the state of Ohio will deal with the issue if DP&L walks away from the two Adams County facilities.
On May 1, Commissioners Pell and Baldridge, Jim Samuel, Mike Pell, and former Congressman Steve Austria met with Wayne Struble, Director of Policy for Governor John R. Kasich. Joining the meeting was Michael Frazier, Assistant Director of Policy for Environment, Energy, and Agriculture. The group sent a clear message to the administration, citing their primary goals for achieving financial and enviromental security for the county after the plants are shuttered.
While most of that work is currently being done in the county’s Department of Economic Development Office, Ohio Representative Terry Johnson says his office is committed to providing county leaders support with “whatever they need”.
“If indeed those plants close, as they’re scheduled to do, we want to re-purpose and come out better than we were before, but that can happen, but only if we start looking to the future,” Johnson said. “During the transition away from coal, people lose their jobs and that’s always traumatic and I firmly encourage DP&L to continue to be as good a community partner when they leave as they were when they were helping to put bread on tables.”