Energy firm names liaison

Joe Napsha
| Friday, March 30, 2012

A Nebraska-based energy firm that plans to build a natural-gas-fueled electricity generating plant in South Huntingdon next year has hired a retired natural gas industry veteran and former chairman of the region's workforce development agency as its community relations representative.

Richard L. Mahla of Hempfield, who was the Westmoreland-Fayette Private Industry Council chairman for 2000 to 2001, will serve as Tenaska Inc.'s liaison for the power plant it intends to build, Tenaska announced Thursday.

"Tenaska is committed to open, two-way communications with the businesses and residents of Westmoreland County," said Michael Roth, its development director. Roth, who is based in Tenaska headquarters in Omaha, said he has traveled to the region every few weeks, but Mahla will be based here.

Mahla worked for Dominion Peoples Gas in Pittsburgh for 31 years, retiring in 2010 as a large-volume key account manager.

"Tenaska understands that having a presence in the community is essential to building a good relationship with area residents," Mahla said.

The plant's cost has been estimated at $1 billion, but Tenaska has stated only that it will be more than $500 million.

"The costs have not been nailed down," Roth said.

The company has purchased 400 acres along the Smithton Pike, which runs parallel to the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70, between the Smithton and West Newton exists.

Construction is scheduled to begin sometime in 2013, but Tenaska has yet to determine a specific date, Roth said. It will take between 26 and 30 months, with about 300 construction jobs created and about 30 permanent positions, Roth said.

The plant will generate electricity with a natural gas combustion turbine in which the gas is blown through the blades of a turbine that turns a generator to produce electricity. The hot exhaust from that process also is used to make electricity by heating water in boiler to turn a steam turbine.

"It's an extremely efficient plant," Roth said.

Tenaska is starting the process of obtaining its required air-quality permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection, Roth said.

Tenaska has an agreement with the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County to supply the plant with water. Tenaska agreed to pay $85,000 a year to reserve up to 8.5 million gallons of water a day, but the plant likely will use about 5 million gallons of water a day, Roth said. The water will be recycled and the small amount that will be discharged will be at an ambient temperature when it flows into the Youghiogheny River, he said..

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