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Power plant investment doubles

Construction is not expected for at least a year, yet expansion already planned at the proposed Hamilton Township power plant will increase the area’s job voltage.

Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Construction is not expected for at least a year, yet expansion already planned at the proposed Hamilton Township power plant will increase the area’s job voltage.

That much is certain, township trustee Bob Blankenship said.

"In the back of my head, with what I keep hearing, I’m looking for more plants and jobs, because of it," Blankenship said. "It just keeps getting better."

CME North American Merchant Energy LLC detailed a joint venture Tuesday with power giant Calpine Corp. – the second expansion announcement of its proposed natural-gas-to-electricity plant.

"Since the last meeting here in June, when we began discussions about a 1,000-megawatt plant, we’ve made progress with a feasibility study and come to the realization that the (electrical company) interconnection will support a plant twice that size," said Paul LeBlanc, CME’s business developer.

Changing the plant to up to 2,200 megawatts also means CME needs to partner with a strong company to push the $1 billion investment forward, LeBlanc said.

Enter Calpine, a $14 billion company based in San Jose, Calif., that is the largest independent producer of power in the country, he said.

"The results of this are that we will be able to build a larger plant significantly larger than anticipated and sooner than expected."

For Lawrence County, more is riding on the deal than just corporate success, Blankenship said.

If the companies meets state permitting muster, construction will employ 350 to 400 local laborers for four years; there will be between 35 and 50 full-time employees with average salaries of $70,000; and the plant will only take up 60 of the 300 acres on which it now holds an option.

New industries also are likely to follow in the power plant’s footsteps, wanting to use its byproducts of steam and hot water, Calpine executives said.

"That’s good for the whole county, good for city and especially for the township," Blankenship said.

You can consider Hamilton a retirement community but many can now foresee a business explosion, complete with plastics plants, coke plants, trucking companies, then groceries and more housing, he said.

"The possibilities are there."

Lawrence Economic Development Corporation executive director Pat Clonch agreed.

"I wish we could get a $14 billion company into town every day," she said.