Jobs for Virginians Tour

Published 9:34 pm Monday, September 14, 2009

Continuing his “Jobs for Virginians” tour, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling stopped at Ciba Corp. in Suffolk on Monday to learn about that company’s proposed plans for a cogeneration project that would convert methane gas from the regional landfill into steam and electricity.

Bolling seemed excited about the project, which represents a $26 million capital investment and would create 12 new jobs, remove 2,200 tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year and result in $30 million to $35 million in revenue for the Southeastern Public Service Authority.

“It is amazing to me,” said Bolling, who is running for re-election to his post as the Republican lieutenant governor. “What you’re doing here with methane is a good use for that.”

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He said the project fits well with the “more energy, more jobs” program that he and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell are promoting in the last few weeks before the November election.

“The most important challenge for Virginia is the need to get the economy moving again,” he said, noting that the commonwealth had a 7.2-percent unemployment rate in July and that state tax collections are down 10.5 percent during the past two years.

Bolling told a small group of people who showed up for the roundtable at Ciba that he and McDonnell are “very focused” on tax and regulatory policies as they affect the state’s business interests.

“If somebody sat down and tried to devise a plan to destroy American businesses right now, that plan would look a lot like what’s coming out of Washington,” he said.

“Government is there to help,” he added. “But it doesn’t always help. Sometimes it gets in the way.”

Bolling said his chief job as lieutenant governor in a McDonnell administration would be to serve as Virginia’s “chief jobs creation officer.”

“We will go through any obstacle to get the economy moving again,” he said. “What we want to be sure of is that Virginia makes the right decision now … to best position our state to take advantage of the (coming) economic recovery.”

Ciba, which was bought out this year by BASF Corp., has been operating in Suffolk since 1983, said Patrick Hochstrasser, the technical operation manager for the plant’s water and paper treatment segment.

The company has more than 200 employees working at the 225-acre facility.

Ciba has been using methane gas from the Southeastern Public Service Authority’s regional landfill in Suffolk for 10 years, but its new project would vastly expand that operation.

When at full operational levels, the cogeneration plant — a joint project between Ciba, Suffolk Energy Partners and General Power Corp. — would fully power the plant, leaving about 15 megawatts of electricity to be sold onto the power grid.

SPSA would be paid for the methane gas, which otherwise would be burned off at the landfill, creating greenhouse gases, even after the landfill is closed and capped.

“This project funds that post-closure activity almost indefinitely,” Hochstrasser said.

“There are a lot of alternative uses” for methane gas and landfill products, Bolling said, adding that he and McDonnell will press for more such alternatives if they are elected.