Proposed power plant petitions for permits

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 4, 2001


LAPLACE – A new power plant, which will provide 300 construction jobs for two years and 35 permanent positions once the facility is completed, may soon be built just outside of LaPlace. If the California-based company proposing the project receives proper permits and the go-ahead from the St. John the Baptist Parish Planning and Zoning Department, construction on the plant could begin in about a year. In the early stages of planning, Sempra Energy of San Diego, Calif. is looking at property in a remote area in the parish. The proposed site is located on 40 acres of a 130-acre plot, two miles south of the LaPlace city limits. The $600 million project is expected to take two years to complete, and obtaining permits for the plant will take approximately 12 months. Named Bonnet Carre Power, L.L.C., the plant is expected to generate more than $8 million for the school district in the form of sales tax revenues during the two-year construction period, said Mark Haarer, public affairs representative for Sempra Energy. The plant will produce a $31 million annual payroll during the two-year construction period. “That will also possibly be pumped back into the area,” Haarer said, adding that another $2.5 million annually will go to payroll for the permanent positions created. “We are committed to hiring as many qualified individuals from the area as possible,” he said. According to Haarer, the plant will be capable of producing 1,200 megawatts of electricity, enough to serve around 750,000 homes, though the company will initially service only industrial customers. “Entergy will probably be our first customer,” said Haarer. Around August when power runs low, the only electric company here will need to buy more power, he said. According to Sempra officials, an arrival of another power plant will bring competition to Entergy and possibly lower electricity costs to residents in the future. Haarer added, “This will be one of the cleanest power plants in Louisiana.” Using clean-burning natural gas as its fuel source and the Mississippi River for cooling water, Haarer said the plant is environmentally friendly. He said it is not what Louisiana residents think of when they conjure up the image of a plant, unlike the plants along River Road. “We’re flareless,” he said. According to Kevin Swartz, project director, the community leaders of St. John are fully behind the project. He and Haarer recently met with them to try to “get a feel for what they think.” “This is the largest single corporate development in our area in more than 10 years, and we are thrilled about having a Fortune 500 company make such a significant commitment to the future economic growth of our parish,” said Parish President Nickie Monica. “The 300 temporary construction jobs over two years and the 35 permanent positions will provide a significant boost to our local economy,” added Parish Councilman Cleveland Farlough. “We are very community oriented,” said Swartz. “We will be looking for other ways to be involved. We will be a good corporate neighbor.” “We’re dedicated to education, the environment, heath and safety and economic development,” said Haarer. “We’ve always really injected ourselves in the areas we’ve done business. That’s not just something we’ll do for the first two years and then disappear.” Sempra Energy began looking at St. John Parish a couple of years ago and decided on the River Parishes’ area because of its proximity to the Mississippi River. “It will be well-hidden from River road,” Haarer explained. “This will be an anchor for other industries. It may be that the parish can pick and choose the kinds of companies that come here in the future.” The plant will be at least 1,000 feet away from any residential area, said officials, and because it is a new plant it will be 45 percent more efficient than the older plants. According to Swartz, he will be filing most of the permit applications in the next couple of weeks. Sempra Energy has $13 billion in revenues and a net income of $429 million, and the company serves more than nine million customers in the United States, Europe, Canada, Mexico, South America and Asia.