AVON LAKE — Conversion of the Avon Lake plant from coal to natural gas will require easements on 155 parcels of land and eminent domain may be necessary on 63 of those.
NRG Energy Inc. recently filed a letter of notification with the Ohio Power Siting Board seeking approval for the construction of a 24-inch, underground natural gas pipeline. The pipeline will run 20 miles from a tap-in point south of Grafton to the power plant.
For the past six months, NRG has been attempting to obtain easements from property owners in Avon Lake, Avon, North Ridgeville, Elyria and parts of Carlisle, Eaton and LaGrange townships.
NRG hadn’t previously specified how many easements would be necessary for the project. But the letter said NRG needs easements on 155 parcels of land and 36 have been granted so far.
Fifty-six other properties are within the final stages of easement negotiations, the letter said, and NRG is preparing to move forward with eminent domain on 63 properties. NRG intends to have any eminent domain cases filed by the end of January, and they also indicated they don’t think eminent domain will be required on all 63 properties because there is still time for agreements to be reached.
The letter said NRG made more than 200 pipeline route adjustments at the request of landowners over the last six months. It also said some landowners have indicated they will not allow NRG to construct a pipeline on their land for any price, while others have asked for payments that are 200 percent more than what has been offered.
Landowners who attended previous informational meetings in October said they had been offered $10 to $15 per foot for easements. At a meeting in October, a Columbus-based eminent domain attorney told landowners that those who accepted $10 to $15 per foot were being underpaid.
The pipeline will require 50-foot permanent easements in most cases, and temporary easements along the route will be necessary during construction. NRG will also remove around 67 acres of trees to make way for the pipeline.
There are two, one-acre gas metering stations along the proposed route at tap-in locations. The proposed pipeline would tap in to an existing gas line owned and operated by Dominion East Ohio southwest of Grafton, who would also design, build and operate the metering station.
A secondary and additional supply tap is proposed for an existing gas line in North Ridgeville owned and operated by Columbia Gas Transmission. A regulating station, which will reduce gas pressure from 100 pounds per square inch to 50, will be at the Avon Lake power plant.
The power plant’s previous owner, Genon, planned to close the plant because they said the cost of meeting new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pollution guidelines wasn’t economically feasible. Pollution control devices would have cost $422 million, officials said previously, and building a 20-mile pipeline is less costly, although NRG has not said how much the pipeline project will cost.
The letter said NRG intends to hire local contractors for the pipeline project where feasible, and construction could begin as early as this summer. The plant could be operational with natural gas as a fuel source by June 2016.
In recent months, NRG said the value of the power plant is lower than Lorain County auditor valuations. NRG requested the Lorain County Board of Revisions to reduce the property value by nearly $45 million from $54 million to $6.6 million.
An appraiser hired by NRG cited aging infrastructure, high coal prices and the energy market’s lack of need for coal-fired plants as the basis for the devaluation request.
The Board of Revisions dismissed the NRG complaint last month, citing an administrative technicality and NRG has since appealed the board’s ruling to the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals, who has set a hearing date for June 29.
If the revaluation request is granted by the state, NRG will receive an estimated $1.3 million tax refund for tax year 2013, the bulk of which would come from Avon Lake Schools.