The Baard Energy project for the Wellsville area, which many had given up for dead, now appears to have new life.
The project, however, has changed significantly. The size of the originally proposed $6 billion project, which would construct a synthetic diesel and jet fuel production facility, has been scaled back to about half -to between $3 billion and $3.5 billion - and it will be fueled by natural gas instead of coal.
The switch from coal to natural gas seems logical in the current Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas boom. It also solves the problem of permit appeals filed by Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club environmental groups, who were fighting the use of the coal-to-liquid technology as "dirty and expensive."
The project had been hailed as a way to revive the lagging coal mining industry, and it's unfortunate that this will no longer be the case. But now with the cleaner natural gas it appears that the project that was first proposed five years ago may finally be able to move ahead.
Columbiana County Port Authority CEO Tracy Drake said he believes the revised project will succeed where the old project failed, because of the natural gas boom. "If we can pull this off it will change the economy in the region ... We had looked at (the original project) as a game changer, and it looks like we still have a chance," he said.
From Columbiana County's perspective, the thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs created by even half of this project will still be a boon to the local economy, and now it is linked to the natural gas drilling industry which is expected to significantly impact our economy as well.