West Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ben Salango backs state support of proposed Brooke County power plant
WHEELING — Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Salango indicates he would support state funding for a proposed natural gas power plant in Brooke County if he is elected governor.
Salango addressed supporters Wednesday night outside the First State Capitol building in Wheeling just hours after Gov. Jim Justice questioned the economic validity of the Energy Solutions Consortium Brooke County Power project, a proposed 830-megawatt natural gas power plant.
“Any time we can work on economic development, the state is better off,” Salango said. “We don’t want to go around picking winners and losers, but we certainly got to make it more friendly for business and make sure we are creating jobs and moving West Virginia’s economy into the 21st century.
“You can’t keep using the same playbook from the 1950s and expect a different result.”
Justice, who owns coal interests, has a focus on coal, he said.
“Coal is an important part of West Virginia, but we also have to diversify from just one industry,” Salango said. “It is something we should have done decades ago. Certainly with a coal baron in office, that isn’t going to happen.”
Developers for the natural gas power plant project have asked the State Economic Development Authority to back them for a $5.6 million private loan, thus indicating their support for the project to investors. This support has yet to come forth from the state.
Among those speaking in support of Salango during Wednesday’s rally was Delegate Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, who has been pushing the value of the project in Charleston.
The project, with an estimated cost of $866 million, will bring in much money to Brooke County and the state, he said.
Swartzmiller told the crowd this would include about $100 million in payroll taxes to the state from the trades working on the project.
The city of Wellsburg also expects to take in about $1 million into its water and sewage accounts during construction of the plant, and the figure would be about $433,000 annually once the plant is completed, according to Swartzmiller.
Justice on Wednesday expressed many questions about the project, and suggested it might create “only about 20 jobs” if and when it becomes operational.
“Let me tell you — that’s 20 more jobs than the current governor has brought to the Northern Panhandle since he has been there,” Swartzmller said.
Also speaking during the rally were state Sen. William Ihlenfeld, D-Ohio, and Delegates Phil Diserio, D-Brooke, Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, Lisa Zukoff, D-Marshall, and Democratic 2nd District State Senate nominee Josh Gary.
Salango’s mobile office was on the road making stops throughout West Virginia on Wednesday.
Prior to ending the day in Wheeling, he made stops in Beckley, Oak Hill, Charleston and Sutton.
“I can tell you that today, the governor said he doesn’t want to do in-person press conferences because it wasn’t safe. Yet he hasn’t done anything to make our schools safe,” Salango said. “He wants to put our kids in schools, but make certain he doesn’t have in-person press conferences. That seems hypocritical.”
(King can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)