MOUNT CARMEL TOWNSHIP -- There's a new industry on the horizon in Northumberland County. It's one that promises to be green and completely change a coal-mining community for the better.
For years, the Mt. Carmel Cogen, Inc. power plant in Northumberland County has turned culm into electricity. Culm is the waste product of decades of coal mining. However, keeping the place running is getting more and more difficult.
"The financial strain on the energy business over the past three to four years has really been very severe, so the economics of these plants has been tough to maintain as far as maintenance and keeping the plants going," said Ken Pollock, Mt. Carmel Cogen, Inc.
Fifty people work at the plant, making it the biggest employer in the area. It's a coal-mining region that many say has seen better days.
But there's a new plan that could save the plant and the entire community--an $8 to $10 million investment called Power Plant Medicinal.
"It's going to be a great project. There's a lot of synergies between the cogen plant and power plant medicinal where we'll be able to provide them with water, electricity, carbon dioxide from our stack. It'll be a win-win for both companies," said Ed Missal, Mt. Carmel Cogen, Inc.
Power Plant Medicinal is a new company associated with the cogen plant. Company officials have applied for a permit to grow and process marijuana for medical use.
The future, they say is bright. And it's green.
"Right now, we're looking at 60 plus jobs in addition to the 50 we already have. They're skilled, high-paying positions that will be coming to the area. They will be local positions. People won't need prior experience," said Megan Millo, Power Plant Medicinal.
If the permit is granted, the new medical marijuana facility will be built right next to the power plant where company officials say they'll use the coal waste of the past to power the future.
"Everyone has been really supportive. Everyone thinks it's a really good project. It's going to help keep the jobs that we have stable, keep the plant running for a long time, and provide more jobs and people and local industry," Missal said.
Medical marijuana doesn't come without some controversy. Some doctors want more research to prove it helps treat serious conditions.
Controversy aside, the people with Power Plant Medicinal say having a marijuana facility here will seriously boost the local economy and change the face of this coal region.
"It's bringing this area out of the small coal-mining town that it was, and it's making it bigger and better and more bright," Millo said.
The plan is to keep the marijuana facility secure with steel fencing, 24-hour surveillance, and security guards.
The state is expected to approve permits by July and hopes to have medical marijuana facilities up and running by the middle of next year.
If approved, Power Plant Medicinal officials say the facility near Mount Carmel will be ready by then.