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Natural gas-fueled power plant in Lawrence County gets site approval

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 9:04 a.m.

A $750 million plant in Lawrence County, powered by Marcellus shale gas, could begin generating electicity by 2016, officials said.

LS Power Development LLC received North Beaver supervisors' approval this week to build a 900-megawatt plant along the Mahoning River at the site of a former American Cyanamid Co. explosives manufacturing plant. Construction could begin early next year.

The New Jersey-based company needs state and federal permits, and the state Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing several requests, project manager Casey Carroll said on Wednesday.

“We're trying to respond to the large number of proposed retirements — some 3,000 megawatts” of power generation capacity in northwest Pennsylvania and northeast Ohio, he said, addressing how the company chose the location. One megawatt can power about 800 homes.

The proposed Hickory Run Energy Station also needs access to high-voltage lines, interstate natural gas pipelines and a water supply source.

LS Power's project is moving forward as electric generation companies are closing less efficient coal-fired plants or converting them to run on cheaper natural gas before tougher federal air pollution standards take effect in 2015.

FirstEnergy Corp. of Akron, American Electric Power of Columbus and GenOn Energy Inc., which NRG Energy of Princeton, N.J., acquired for $1.7 billion in December, along with other operators announced closings of dozens of plants last year.

Natural gas plants account for 95 percent of generation planned in grid operator PJM Interconnection LLC's territory covering 13 states and the District of Columbia, spokeswoman Paula DuPont-Kidd said. Wind used to be the fastest-growing sector, she said.

Pending deactivations of coal-fired plants add up to more than 16,000 megawatts of generating capacity, PJM documents show.

Carroll said LS Power, with offices in East Brunswick, N.J., and St. Louis, has a contract to buy the Hickory Run site off Route 551, about 45 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. owns and operates the gas lines that would supply the plant, and has a system that runs from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast.

Carroll said 500 workers would be needed to build the plant, with an estimated payroll of $100 million. The completed power station will employ 25.

LS Power owns or is developing power plants that run on natural gas, coal or renewables such as wind and solar, and is building high-voltage transmission lines, its website said. In Pennsylvania, the company has a natural gas-fired plant under development in Berks County.

Kim Leonard is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5606 or kleonard@tribweb.com.

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