LOGANSPORT, Ind. (WLFI) - Logansport city leaders took a big step forward Monday night to building a half-billion-dollar power plant that may be the first of its kind.
But the vote doesn't come without controversy, namely, can it be done?
Not all are in agreement on the Logansport City Council, but with a 5-2 vote Monday, the city will begin to negotiate a series of three agreements with private company Pyrolyzer LLC to build a 150-megawatt facility with an estimated cost of $566 million.
Council President Joe Buck was voted in favor of the city. He said if one of the agreements isn't acceptable, "they still have to come back to the utility services board and city council. We haven't closed any doors. We're merely under negotiations."
The clock is ticking with the city's coal power plant closing in the next 3 to 5 years, a move mandated by the EPA.
Mayor Ted Franklin said the Pyrolyzer bid is best. Under the proposal, Logansport customers who now pay 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour will pay no more than 5.5 cents, a savings of more than 30 percent, maybe more.
"They're capped to guarantee our rates," said Buck. "This is what negotiations are for. We haven't closed any doors tonight."
But instead of closing doors, others worried Monday's vote opens up a Pandora's box. Both from the science of the process which some say is inefficient, and from the facts that the company has never built a plant of this size before nor one used commercially full-time.
Chuck LaDow was one of the two councilmen who voted against the plant.
"I'm an environmentalist, I like the idea, I haven't seen anything proven," said LaDow. "No power plants in North America and only two that have run part-time over in Germany, makes me very skeptical."
Reaction is also mixed about the possibility if something going wrong.
What if the company can't find the estimated 6,000 tons of trash needed to power the plant daily?
"Our worst case scenario is to go to natural gas, so not a real big problem as far as I'm concerned," Buck said.
"They never have. The theory is they can switch it to natural gas, but they've never done it," said LaDow.
Four citizens made public comments Monday. Two spoke for the plant. Jim Brugh was one of two against. Among his concerns, a worry that Pyrolyzer could go bankrupt.
"What I think about the vote is that it's a mistake to do business with an unknown company about this unknown process," said Brugh.
This is how the money works. Pyrolyzer spends the estimated $566 million to build the plant. They recoup their money in several ways. First, they anticipate sanitation services will pay them to accept their trash by charging cheaper rates than the landfill. They will then recycle some materials like metal and glass, selling them for a profit. The rest of the solid waste will be shredded and used to make electricity which will be sold as well.
Franklin said total sales for Logansport are about $30 million annually at the 8.5 cent rate, but the plant will also be able to sell a lot of electricity on the open market.
Because of the complexity of the money, much is still unknown, including the plant's location, how long Pyrolyzer will run it, the terms it will be returned to Logansport and exactly how much it will cost Logansport customers.
Franklin said that will all be negotiated in coming months and it may take until September to have a potential agreement to vote on.
People across Indiana are bundling up against colder temperatures than parts of the state saw in either of the past two winters.
A northwestern Indiana planning board is expected to vote on whether to move forward with building the proposed Illiana Expressway that would connect Interstate 65 near Lowell with Interstate 55 south of Chicago.
An attorney for a southern Indiana man charged with murder in the death of his 20-year-old nephew says the shooting was an accident.