The word “streamlined” was used by Frank Pifer, AEP manager of operations and communications who this week addressed the Meigs County Chamber of Commerce along with colleague Jon Buck, AEP manager community affairs. Also joining the AEP delegation were Jeff Rennie, AEP spokesperson, and Kathy Mullins, AEP customer service representative.
Buck, who led AEP's presentation to the chamber said he wanted members to leave the luncheon knowing, “We're (AEP) committed to pursuing cost recovery and siting in Ohio and if we get timely cost recovery we plan to build the plant in Ohio.”
The word “timely” is the proverbial fly in the ointment for the plant proposed in Great Bend in Meigs County. West Virginia, with it's new slogan “We're open for business,” has at least the appearance of pulling ahead in the race to be the first to build an IGCC plant because of differing political and regulatory processes in terms of cost recovery.
When asked if there was anything the people of Meigs County could do to make the Great Bend site in Letart Township more attractive to AEP, Pifer made the compliment, “I don't think there's anything you could do. The only site that scored higher was the Mountaineer site.”
Pifer went on to explain, “The biggest issues we face are the processes we have to go through in Ohio to get the project moving ... it's more about the political process.”
Buck agreed, saying AEP was already impressed with the Great Bend site itself and the local support the company has received from Meigs' political leaders, the Southern Local School District and other community leaders.
Buck then assured chamber members AEP was working closely with the Public Utitlites Commission of Ohio (PUCO) which is considering the company's cost recovery request.
As reported recently, the PUCO has approved cost recovery for the front-end engineering and design costs for the $1 billion plant proposed in Meigs County, but has taken no action on recovering the actual costs of constructing the plant.
“The ball is in our court as far as getting a better handle on the process,” Buck explained.
The AEP delegation as well as Meigs County Chamber of Commerce President Donald Vaughan encouraged everyone at the meeting to contact their state and local representatives to voice their support of the proposed IGCC and FutureGen plants in the county.
“We want to see all the plants here,” Vaughan said, echoing the chamber's sentiments.
Meigs County Commissioner Mick Davenport added that it would be an advantage to have the FutureGen Plant and IGCC plant in the same county to share clean coal technology.
The FutureGen project would have zero emissions while the IGCC plant would possess the technology to be modified to perform the same task.
Buck dismissed the rumor that Ohio would be paying for the plant if it went elsewhere.
“Ohio customers would be paying for an Ohio plant,” Buck confirmed.
Although Pifer said West Virginia's “streamlined” cost recovery process could be interpreted as a “smack in the mouth to Meigs” it didn't mean AEP was never going to build an IGCC plant in the county and although the Meigs site may not be the first to go online it hopefully would not be far behind.
Both Pifer and Buck reiterated that AEP is currently positioning itself to focus on where it can receive cost recovery first and go online by 2010 to meet growing customer demand.
Last month Rennie also confirmed that AEP plans to construct two IGCC power plants, and three sites have been selected: the site in Letart Township, a site near the Mountaineer Plant in Mason County, and a third site in Kentucky. None of those sites have been selected as certain locations for the plants, Rennie had said.