More questions than answers in METT project
Last October, just prior to the General Election, Judge Executive Doug Stephens and then-Economic Development Director Susan Stephens shared a press release from METT USA, LLC, announcing the plans to construct a $1 billion facility that could bring 600-900 new jobs into the county.
14 months after the initial press release, that announcement has still not been made, and a recent development concerning the land where the plant was speculated to be built could throw doubt on the future of the project.
According to McCreary County PVA Bruce Lominac the Greenwood property, where the plant was slated to be built, was purchased by Revelation Energy LLC, based out of Pikeville from Roadside Processing. But there is no indication what they plan to do at the site. Attempts to contact a representative from Revelation were unsuccessful.
In October Revelation Energy filed paperwork with the Department for Surface Mining Reclamation to approve the transfer of the surface mining permits for two sites in Greenwood, encompassing a total of 145.15 surface acres.
Tuesday Judge Stephens said he was aware of the transfer of ownership of the land, but did not think it necessarily meant trouble for the project.
“Depending on how the company plans to use the property, it doesn’t kill the deal,” he said Tuesday.
A large “gob pile” or spoil from previous mining operations on the site still sits on the site and Stephens said the new property owner could simply intend to clean up the waste coal thus clearing the land.
Stephens indicated that was one of the projects the METT Group would have to contend with if they were to purchase or lease the property, so if the new owner cleared the waste, it could pave the way for METT to come in after.
“It could be a win-win for both companies,” he said.
When the project was first announced there was little county officials could offer in terms of details, noting the proprietary nature of the deal, but Judge Stephens said at the time he was 99 percent sure that it would be located locally based on his talks with representatives from the company.
While initially hoping for an official announcement at the start of 2015, updates to the Fiscal Court by Stephens indicated several “snags” at the state and federal levels; that the company was working to get through.
One such snag, Stephens said was obtaining enough garbage and waste materials to operate the plant, but METT reportedly has a deal in place for that aspect.
Now, Stephens stated, the hold up is in negotiations with a company to purchase the energy produced at the plant. Without a deal in place, no forward progress can be expected.
The so-called “war on coal” and new EPA regulations also played a role in delaying the project as power producing plants are reviewing the new regulations to see what effects it will have on their costs and needs in terms of green-energy credits.
Judge Stephens said with a Republican Governor slated to take Office this month in Frankfort, a change in the political climate could reinvigorate Kentucky’s power plants and provide a needed boost to the METT plans.
Outside of initial contact and site selection, County officials have had little direct contact with METT Group representatives. Judge Stephens stated his main contact is through State Representative Ken Upchurch, but he has not received any updates in the last six weeks.
Stephens said he planned to contact representatives from Revelation Energy directly to try to learn more about their intent for the property.