Electric plant on schedule
Glenville power plant recruiting needed investors
By ANDREA BULMER
GLENVILLE - It's been almost a year since Thomas Macaulay and Robert Votaw, partners in Glenville Energy Park, proposed to build a power plant off Sacandaga Road.
The 520-megawatt natural gas-fired plant proposed for the Scotia-Glenville Industrial Park has been a source of controversy since it was proposed in December 1999. Residents have repeatedly cited concerns about potential environmental and health hazards associated with a power plant.
The two men organized public meetings to explain the details of the proposed plant, but never really said much about their professional backgrounds.
"Not much is known about them," said Neil Turner, president of Citizens Advocating Responsible Development. Turner's neighbor Arlene Atwood seconded his sentiment. "We don't know anything about them."
Then a September article in the Bennington Banner, a Vermont newspaper, thrust a bit of Macaulay's background into the public eye.
The article brought to light that during the late 1990s Macaulay had been engaged in talks with a pipeline company and Vermont officials about the possibility of building a plant in Rutland.
Although Macaulay said he never actually got as far as proposing the plant, talks about the plant were public. Then Vermont Governor Howard Dean told the Banner he would not support the pipeline, which stalled the proposal.
In addition to difficulties with the pipeline route in Vermont, the paper indicated that Macaulay and Votaw were having difficulties securing financial backing. "The company's representatives have been pushing the Vermont project for almost two years, despite a reported lack of funding and the competition for approval to build plants," the paper said.
Annette Smith with Vermonters for a Cleaner Environment had called Macaulay's and Votaw's talk about a power plant in Vermont a "dog and pony show." Smith also questioned where Macaulay was getting the money to pursue the power plants in Vermont or Glenville.
Glenville residents also have questioned whether the two Vermonters have the finances to get the Glenville project off the ground.
Macaulay and Votaw are just the developers of the project proposal. They are currently seeking investors to finance and operate the plant.
Currently, Macaulay and Votaw are paying for all expenses associated with the proposed plant out-of-pocket. When they find investors to finance the project, Macaulay and Votaw will be reimbursed. "We're close," Macaulay said in a recent interview. "We wish we had signed a contract by now, but the negotiations are taking longer." They plan to announce their financial partners before submitting the application to the state. The two men expect to file the application shortly after the first of the year.
It's not unusual for a developer to plan a project and only then sell it, according to David Flanagan, a spokesman for the state Public Service Commission. Flanagan listed several cases in New York where developers proposed the plant then turned the project over to another company. These include Bethlehem Energy Center, which was developed by Niagara Mohawk then sold to Public Service Electric and Gas Company out of New Jersey.
"Generally speaking it's not unusual you would have a person or organization serving as a developer and starting the Article X process," Flanagan said. Article X is the application process under state regulation.
"Large companies tend to be risk averse," Macaulay said. "It's easier for a large company to buy a concept that's already been thoroughly developed."
Who they are
During an interview, Macaulay and Votaw gave detailed professional histories.
Although Macaulay has no direct experience with power plants, he said he is confident he has what it takes to see the GEP proposal through.
"My background in various fields contributes to my knowledge of how power plants are built," Macaulay said. "I understand permitting, engineering, regulator procedures and how to build."
A Peekskill native, Macaulay is a 1973 Union College graduate who worked for the City of Schenectady Planning Department from 1974-81. From 1979-81 he was the director for planning and economic development.
At one point in Macaulay's career, the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association awarded him a plaque for community service. Mayor Albert Jurczynski was the head of the association at the time.
Macaulay also served as a Vermont state senator from 1991-96, and chaired the state Natural Resources and Energy Committee for two years.
He has a commercial real estate license and has done real estate appraisals.
During the 1980s, he worked for a construction company and the public works department of Rutland, where he currently lives.
Macaulay owns a consulting company that assists small businesses in getting started. He is the director of EDC Funds in Vermont, a non-profit company that helps obtain loans for small businesses. In addition, he owns a piece of Estech-North in Vermont, a company that markets electronic surveillance equipment.
Connecticut resident Robert Votaw has significant experience with power plants.
In the early 1980s Votaw's company, New England Alternate Fuels, helped build and operate the first commercially viable electric generation station that operated from methane gas derived from a Brattleboro landfill. Although Votaw no longer owns the operation, AMS, a private company still converts methane from the capped landfill site.
Votaw was also a consultant for Enserch Development Company, a former Texas-based company that builds and develops power plants. "I've assisted in overseeing the development of many power plant projects," Votaw said.
The two met when Macaulay was working for the Rutland Public Works Department in the 1980s and Votaw was looking for a second site in Rutland to develop a landfill project, Macaulay said.
Not long after, Votaw and his partner at New England Alternate Fuels asked Macaulay to do consulting work for their company, Macaulay said. Eventually they tossed around the idea of building their own power plant. Then in the mid-1990s Macaulay and Votaw pursued the Rutland plant.
While looking into the Rutland plant, which eventually fell through, Macaulay and Votaw also targeted other places to potentially locate plants, including Glenville.
The men proposed the Glenville plant late in 1999. To ensure the proposal has a good chance at getting permitted by the state, Macaulay and Votaw hired a team of professionals to conduct environmental studies and design the plant.
Parsons Engineering is responsible for designing the plant layout. Earth Tech, located in Colonie, is preparing the environmental permits. The Connecticut-based firm Signal Hill is working on the electric transmission aspect of the plant. Energy Market Decisions Inc., a Massachusetts-based company, is looking into gas supply and General Electric will eventually supply the turbines and the generator.
Not only are the studies in the hands of professionals, but the decision to award a permit is also. A state siting board comprised of two governor-appointed citizens and regulatory officials from the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Health and other agencies will review GEP's application and decide whether to award the company a permit to build the plant.
The board will also direct GEP as to what studies must be performed in order to obtain a permit.
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