$500M power plant project in the home stretch

Time will tell if Development Partners can succeed where Allegheny Energy and Tondu failed.

“I was always hoping to see a power plant there, and I was sure I was going to see one within my lifetime, and it sure seems to be a lot closer,” said St. Joseph County Commissioner Dave Thomas.

Development Partners is the third firm since the year 2000 to target a site near New Carlisle for the construction of an electric generating plant. The first was Allegheny Energy from Pennsylvania. The second was Tondu which proposed a coal gasification plant in 2008.

Development Partners is scheduled to close on financing for its project on November 1st, 2015. That means project approval from St. Joseph County government will have to come before then.

Along those lines, a test was being conducted out on the proposed plant site today. It involved pumping water out of test wells to the tune of 2,500 gallons per minute. The pumping will continue for 72 hours, to determine what impact the power plant might have on the environment.

“It will tell us if, number one, if there’s any impact that the use will have on the aquifer by Development Parnters but it will also tell us that there’s hopefully significant groundwater there to support future development in the district,” said Jamie Woods, an attorney who represents the St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners.

Some worry that the proposed power plant would use so much water, there wouldn’t be enough resources left to lure other businesses to hundreds of additional vacant acres in the industrial park.

County officials earlier determined that ‘too big’ was the best way to describe the tax incentive package that the company initially proposed.

“We’re in a much better place,” said Attorney Woods. “Here in the county, the original request from the developer was almost $71 million dollars in incentives and that didn't include debt service for the proposed TIF bond. Now we're talking about an abatement only deal that has the incentive carved down to about $60 million.”

“The project is moving forward and that’s a great thing,” said Commissioner Thomas. “We need the jobs and the investment.”

The project would provide an estimated 500 jobs during its construction and 20 full time positions after that.

The St. Joseph County Council is set to hold a public hearing on a proposed development agreement for the plant at an October 13th meeting.