Although American Electric Power of Ohio’s Muskingum River plant is still slated to close in two years, CSX Transportation is continuing to upgrade the rail system into the Beverly area, which has led to some rumors that another industry may be moving onto the AEP site.
Carol Dennis, who lives on Ferncliff Drive near Devola, has a bird’s eye view of the railroad work going on across the Muskingum River from her home.
“There are tractors, dump trucks-lots of equipment working on the tracks. I’ve lived here since 1969 and have never seen anything like it,” she said. “But I can’t understand why they’re putting so much investment into the railroad when AEP is going to close and the tracks won’t be used that much.”
CSX trains also serve the Globe Metallurgical facility, just east of the AEP plant, but Dennis said she counts only six to eight cars a week headed for the Globe plant.
“I’ve seen 90 or more coal cars going to AEP,” she said.
AEP announced in July that it would be closing the fifth and final unit of the coal-fired Muskingum River power plant at the end of 2015. The company will also shut down units 1 through 4 by June of 2015 in order to comply with tighter Environmental Protection Agency regulations governing the use of coal in generating electricity.
Terri Flora, director of communications for AEP Ohio, said there are currently no plans for other industries to take over the site.
“I’m not aware of anything planned in relation to our plant site,” she said. “But there are obviously other businesses down the line from ours like Globe Metallurgical and there’s also a Duke Energy plant nearby.”
Beverly Mayor Rex Kenyon said there’s been no talk of a new business moving onto the AEP site.
“I’ve heard nothing, although if the AEP site could be developed for another industry we would certainly welcome it,” he said.
Southeastern Ohio Port Authority executive director Terry Tamburini also talked to some industry contacts with AEP.
“We’re not aware of anything going on in that area, but Globe Metallurgical is doing well, and as long as Globe is there the tracks would have to stay,” he said.
Tamburini said the biggest industrial news at this time in the Mid-Ohio Valley is the potential development of a “cracker” plant across the Ohio River in Wood County, W.Va.
“They say that facility would create more than 12,000 jobs at the site alone, and that figure doesn’t include all of the spinoff businesses and hotel, housing and other related economic activity,” he said.
A petrochemical cracker plant converts ethane from Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale natural gas, into the ethylene, a key chemical for the plastics industry.
But Tamburini said that plant, if plans continue moving forward, would be constructed in Wood County, not in Washington County.
Still, he said maintaining quality rail service is a key factor in growing the economy of this area of Southeast Ohio.
Carla Groleau, communications director for CSX Transportation, said the work being done in Washington County is simply a part of the company’s maintenance of its rail facilities.
“Crews are conducting routine, planned maintenance, and during this time, the teams will replace railroad cross ties (timbers) and resurface crossings as needed,” she said.
She added that CSX understands the work may impact local communities, but the work would be completed as safely and swiftly as possible.
More than 60 rail crossings are expected to be improved along the Washington County rail line.