Plans to construct a 20-mile pipeline to carry natural gas from rural Lorain County to a power plant in Avon Lake have been approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board.
The board’s unanimous approval was the final step necessary for the project to move forward. The pipeline will start in southern Lorain County at a tap-in point on a gas line operated by Dominion East Ohio, just south of Grafton, before heading north to the lakefront.
NRG is still involved in multiple eminent domain lawsuits with landowners that it needs easements from to construct the pipeline. Some of those landowners had tried to argue before the board, which temporarily delayed a decision on the project, that NRG hadn’t considered all possible routes and that it was being given an accelerated approval process in violation of state law.
The board rejected those claims, saying NRG fully examined other routes, chose the one with the least environmental impact and met all criteria necessary for construction of a pipeline that will serve the public interest.
The board said the pipeline will allow the power plant to remain operational and fulfill capacity obligations while contributing to the electric system.
NRG must still meet a number of environmental conditions as the project moves forward and the board said NRG must continue working with affected landowners and adjusting routes across parcels where landowners have concerns.
Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka said he’s pleased the project will move forward although he said the city continues to disagree with NRG regarding the value of the power plant.
NRG has filed complaints with the Lorain County Board of Revisions for tax years 2013 and 2014 that say the power plant is not worth the auditor’s valuation of $53.9 million, but is instead worth anywhere from $1.8 to $9.9 million.
Zilka said the city is concerned because such a large drop in valuation would mean tax burdens would shift to other taxpayers throughout the city.
“We have agreed to disagree on this issue, and we will continue to go through the appropriate process to make sure the power plant pays a fair amount of tax,” Zilka said. “The less tax they pay the more responsibility that falls on other shareholders and individual residents.”
NRG’s position remains that the plant’s value is much less than what it used to be, which NRG has established through an independent appraisal firm. NRG officials have said the reality is coal-powered plants across the country are closing en masse, which affects values.
If NRG’s tax complaints are honored, it would receive tax refunds for those years of $1.3 million and $1.5 million respectively.
NRG hasn’t disclosed how much the pipeline will cost but a spokesperson said previously that it is much cheaper to construct than implementing $422 million in pollution control devices that would be necessary in order to comply with federal Environmental Protection Agency pollution guidelines.