New Plant Seen As Energy Saver


Florence - Governor Howard Dean cut the ribbon

for a new cogeneration facility at the OMYA marble

plant Wednesday and called it a pathbreaking example

of how the state should provide for its long-term

electric power needs.

The plant will burn either oil or natural gas in

Allison jet aircraft type engines. The heat will be

used to dry ground marble while generating eight

megawatts of electric power.

The electricity will go into the grid of the OMYA

Vermont Marble Company's power division, about 10

percent of which serves Proctor area residents. The

other 90 percent meets the needs of the massive rock

crushing plant in Florence, Vermont Marble's marble

cutting and finishing plant in Proctor, and related


David Ferris, director of energy systems for

OMYA's Swiss parent company, Pluess Staufer

Industries, said Proctor residents would see a

long-term stabilization in their rates, though not any

immediate drop. "The project is treated as a

revenue-neutral project for the industrial

application," he said. "The economic benefits flow

through to our residential customers."

John M. Mitchell, the president of Vermont

Marble, said the cogeneration plant cost "several

millions of dollars" and "will save us several million

gallons of oil a year."

Ferris told about 80 officials and

representatives of companies involved in the project

that he had some good words to say about the

regulatory process that had decided the project would

benefit the public.

I'm shocked," quipped Dean.

"It's part of the game, not always the easiest

part, but in this case the professionism of the

regulatory bodies should be recognized," Ferris said.

Dean for his part said, "This project points the

way to the future of energy in Vermont." The state

now has three main sources of power, he said: The

Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon, which will be

decommissioned after the year 2012: Hydroelectric

power from Quebec, whose potential is limited by

environmental considerations: And fossil fuel

generators, again suspect because of their

environmental impacts.

"If we're going to have an economy that means a

decent standard of living for Vermonters, we need

energy," Dean said. To be sure of that energy, "we

are going to have to become reliant on our own

sources," he said.

Thus, in the long term, cogeneration and

conservation look to be the leading new sources of

power capacity, Dean said. "You are going to see this

kind of project springing up all over Vermont."

A tour of the plant included a look at a new

railroad up loading facility, which includes a

500,000-gallon holding tank for fuel oil. Mitchell

said that if natural gas were used instead of oil, the

monetary savings and environmental benefits would be

even greater.

Asked about the possible implications of a bill

in congress that would expedite the sitings of natural

gas pipelines, Dean said he thought a pipeline would

be of benefit to the state. But it is unlikely that a

project similar to the defunct Champlain Pipeline

would be attempted, because the Iroquis pipeline

across Lake Champlain in New York State will be so

close, he said.

"We might be able to tap lateral lines in from

Iroquis," Dean said.

Since coming to Vermont in 1978, OMYA has

steadily expanded its operation in Florence and will

continue to do so, Mitchell said. Vermont Marble and

Pluess Staufer both began in the 1880s, and both

companies have acquired reserves of stone adequate to

last for at least the next 100 years, he said.

A Pluess Staufer operation in Omey, France, whose

residents were called "Omyats" led to the name OMYA

for Pluess Staufer's calcium carbonate division.

OMYA is privately held and does not release sales

figures. But Mitchell said it employs 338 people and

contributes more than $1,600,000 in taxes to 29

Vermont municipalities.

William Taranovich, chairman of Pittsford's board

of selectmen said the Florence plant is valued at $67

million, even with tax stabilization agreements that

the town has always readily negotiated.

Mitchell said the prospects for ground calcium

carbonate sales are good because it can substitute for

more expensive materials in plastics, paper, and a

host of other products. Meanwhile, the Japanese have

been steadily buying blocks of marble from the

company's underground quarry in Danby, the world's

largest, he said.