Facing opposition, Invenergy eyes second site for Elizabeth gas plant
February 7, 2017 12:00 AM
An Invenergy natural-gas power plant
A meeting in June attracted a large turnout at Elizabeth Forward Middle School. The Elizabeth zoning board rejected a plan by Invenergy, a Chicago based energy developer, to build a natural gas-fired power plant in the township.
By Daniel Moore / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Facing a lengthy legal dispute with Elizabeth Township, a Chicago-based energy developer wants to move its proposed natural gas-fired power plant to what it hopes will be a less contentious plot of land.
Invenergy, which has for more than a year pursued putting a 550-megawatt plant in the township, is offering Elizabeth commissioners a deal: It will drop its court challenge if they allow the plant to go forward on the site of a scrap yard, roughly 10 miles from the original site. The township’s zoning board rejected the original plan in June.
Nick Cohen, director of thermal development at Invenergy, said he had met with many people who were part of successfully halting the company’s efforts to begin developing the original site along the Youghiogheny River, which had been contaminated with coal sludge and industrial waste in the 1980s.
(Click image for larger version)
“The idea is to try to find a site that’s still in Elizabeth Township but not where the people of Mt. Vernon neighborhood will be,” Mr. Cohen said, referring to the community closest to the site proposed last year.
Mr. Cohen said he believes the plant has plenty of backers — the company submitted the names and addresses of nearly 500 supporters as evidence in its court challenge — but hopes the move could help win over more.
“We’ve heard from a lot of the opposition,” he said. “There’s no doubt they’re a force in the township.”
Mr. Cohen was scheduled to appear at a commissioners’ meeting Monday night to share the company’s change of plans. The new site, he said, will be on a property currently owned by Casturo Iron & Metal, a McKeesport company, and used as a junkyard.
The new site is zoned rural-residential, according to county zoning maps, and Mr. Cohen acknowledged the company would have to again seek a change in zoning.
A representative of Casturo Iron & Metal could not immediately be reached.
It’s unclear to what extent opponents, some of whom organized under the name Protect Elizabeth Township, would be appeased by the move.
The site change would not negate the damage a plant would do to the environment, said Krissy Kasserman, Youghiogheny Riverkeeper.
“Regardless of location, a gas-fired power plant like this has no place in Elizabeth Township,” said Ms. Kasserman, who oversees protection of the entire Youghiogheny watershed. “It’s a residential area. There are a lot of homes nearby. The concerns we had about the Fiore property are the same concerns we have about this property.”
Hearings in the company’s lawsuit, filed in July against the zoning board, have been postponed at least twice.
“We’re committed to Elizabeth Township because there are a lot of people who want to see the benefits,” Mr. Cohen said.
Daniel Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2743 and Twitter @PGdanielmoore.
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