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Fate of state’s energy needs to be aired at energy summit this fall

State leaders will turn their eyes toward energy this fall, the latest move in an apparent electricity generating trend.

Monday, July 30, 2001

State leaders will turn their eyes toward energy this fall, the latest move in an apparent electricity generating trend.

The Ohio Power Siting Board recently held hearings on a natural gas fired plant in Jackson, while officials from the same board sponsored a public information meeting only recently in Hanging Rock to discuss a similar proposal from Duke Energy.

Calpine Inc. is also pursuing the same approval, with more public hearings only months away.

Now, Gov. Bob Taft has announced he will hold an ”energy summit” in October to discuss the state’s future energy needs and supply.

That date comes near the November groundbreaking expected on the separate multi-million dollar investments of Duke and Calpine.

Beth Trombold, Director of Public Affairs for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio said the summit is scheduled for Oct. 1 in Columbus, though details are still being worked out.

The invitation-only summit will ”be a chance for political leaders and regulatory specialists and companies to get together and evaluate where we are in terms of Ohio’s energy portfolio and price and supply.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, who is watching over energy legislation progressing through Congress currently, agreed that an energy summit for Ohio is a good idea.

"I think I have seven or more of those plants under discussion or construction in my district," Strickland said, referring to natural gas fired plants.

The summit will likely underscore all energy resources across Ohio.

And, those resources are at an adequate level, Strickland said.

"I don’t think Ohio is likely to have any serious problems with shortages," he said. "I feel certain in the years to come, we will export significant amounts of energy to other states."

Trombold said the energy summit will also help Ohio align its energy plans with the national energy strategy issued by President Bush in May.

Taft noted that while California has not built a new power plant in over 10 years, leading to the state’s current energy shortage, Ohio has plenty of energy capacity.

”Since I’ve taken office, we’ve approved eighteen new electric generating facilities and have nine additional units under consideration,” Taft said. ”Our message to our friends in California is loud and strong: If your business needs reliable sources of electric power, come to Ohio, the lights are on.”

Taft also said he has had inquiries from power companies interested in building a new coal-fired power plant in the state, though he declined to name the companies.

Strickland said he had also heard there were inquiries about a coal-fired plant.

"There’s strong speculation, and maybe more than speculation, there could be a new coal-fired facility adjacent to the Piketon plant," he said.

The governor also said that President Bush’s interest in new clean-coal technologies makes construction of new coal-fired plants more likely.

Steve Brash, spokesman for Cincinnati-based Cinergy Corp. said the company is interested in building a coal-fired plant, but does not yet have any specific plans.

”We are looking at potential sites for such a facility throughout the region,” including Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, Brash said. But he added that Cinergy is unlikely to build a coal fired plant until Congress passes legislation to streamline environmental rules for coal-fired plants.

Strickland said he has heard that if a coal-fired plant becomes a reality in Piketon, then it would be among the cleanist, most efficient such facilities, and likely not require any federal legislation efforts.

<I>The Associated Press contributed to this story.