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State board to consider Oregon natural gas power plant

Construction is expected to begin in January on Oregon’s second major power plant fueled by natural gas, a $900 million project that reinforces how America’s fracking boom is upending the energy marketplace.

The Ohio Power Siting Board’s first order of business at its monthly meeting in Columbus on Thursday afternoon is to issue a permit to a Massachusetts developer planning to build the 955-megawatt project on behalf of Clean Energy Future-Oregon, LLC.

Plans call for that plant to begin operating in 2020 next to the 960-mw Oregon Clean Energy plant that went online this summer. Both are attractive to the 13-state regional grid operator that includes Ohio, PJM Interconnection LLC, because each will have the capacity to produce more electricity than FirstEnergy Corp.’s cash-strapped Davis-Besse nuclear plant in nearby Ottawa County.

FirstEnergy has said it may close Davis-Besse prematurely unless it finds a buyer or gets assistance from the Ohio General Assembly to help that plant and its Sammis coal-fired power plant in southern Ohio. Rock-bottom natural gas prices have resulted in coal and nuclear plant retirements elsewhere in the United States.

Matt Schilling, the state siting board’s spokesman, told The Blade the second Oregon natural-gas plant’s final approval faces no major obstacles. Hearing transcripts show the first plant’s operators raised a few concerns about access during construction, but that those have been resolved.

Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, has been around for decades. The game-changer occurred about 10 years ago, when the oil and gas industry developed a horizontal drilling technique that suddenly opened up vast supplies of previously trapped fossil fuels worldwide.

In the northeastern United States, there are large gas reserves in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions of eastern Ohio, western and central Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, as well as major pipelines being built across the state.

Ohio’s energy landscape has changed dramatically since a decade ago, when the state got about 85 percent of its electricity from burning coal and much of the rest from nuclear plants. Ohio historically has been one of America’s most coal-reliant states.

Ohio now gets 59.8 percent of its electricity from coal, still well above the national average but much less than just a few years ago. Its percentage of electricity from natural gas now exceeds 24 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The natural gas share is expected to keep rising now that 10 plants across Ohio are in various stages of planning, design, construction, or early operation.

Read full article at The Toledo Blade