CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state is making good on a commitment that it made two years ago to the developers of the Rockwool plant in Jefferson County.
The state Economic Development Authority approved a bond resolution Thursday that will result in Roxul USA, the parent company of the plant, receiving up to $6 million it’s spent on construction of a water line and water tank on the old orchards property near Ranson.
The state originally promised to pay for the water line up front through the state Water Development Authority and the Infrastructure Jobs Development Council via the Jefferson County Development Authority but the Jefferson County group backed out after most of its members resigned over the Rockwool controversy.
The state Economic Development Authority essentially took the place of the Jefferson EDA in Thursday’s vote.
“We are just following up on the obligation of the (Jefferson County) EDA to support this construction,” state EDA Chairman and state Development Office Director Michael Graney said. “It was an obligation under the original agreement for someone to do it. Recognizing that that group chose not to do it, we had an obligation to do it.”
Rockwool spokesman Michael Zarin told MetroNews the company appreciates the state stepping in and making good on the original commitment that the water line would be provided at no cost. Zarin said Rockwool didn’t want the project to fall behind so they financed the work.
Construction of the plant was originally announced in 2017, public protests began about a year later. The $150 million plant will be used for manufacturing stone wool insulation. It will include two smoke stacks each about 213 feet tall, 460,000 square feet of space and could use between 100,000 and 125,000 gallons of water per day. The plant will employ roughly 150 people in positions ranging from production to management. More than 70 percent of the project has been completed. Production could begin late next year, Zarin said Thursday.
“We have about 225 construction workers on the site now and the majority of the building footprint is installed and we’re in the process of sort of closing up the buildings. We’ve begun installing equipment in the areas of the building that are complete,” Zarin said.
Rockwool hopes to begin a hiring program for plant jobs in the January-February 2020 time frame.
The plant is current waiting on the renewal of a stormwater permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection and approval from the state Public Service Commission on the financing plan for the sewer line on the project.
Zarin said there remains opposition to the plant but it doesn’t appear to be growing.
“There is a group who are still opposed to the project an they are active and committed to oppose the project and that’s fair enough but that doesn’t appear to be growing in any way,” he said. “It’s familiar faces and again, that’s fair enough and we respect that.”
The opposition has centered on the health and safety impact of the plant.
The bond resolution passed unanimously without discussion at Thursday’s WV EDA meeting in Charleston. The authority is borrowing $6 million from the state Water Development Authority in place of the Jefferson County EDA. The state EDA will lease the water line to Jefferson Utilities, Inc. The state EDA and Water Development Authority will eventually get the money back through revenue from the water line customers.
The water line is approximately four miles long with pipes ranging from 2 to 16 inches in diameter. It includes fire hydrants and a nearly 793,000 gallon water tank.
Story by Jeff Jenkins