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
"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
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
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.