Opponents ask state to revoke power plant permit
Share with others:
Opponents of the proposed Beech Hollow Energy Project in Robinson, Washington County, are asking state officials to revoke a permit for a 150-megawatt power plant that would be fueled by natural gas.
A letter dated Aug. 8 and addressed to the state Department of Environmental Protection contends that Robinson Power Co. LLC's permit application did not mention the intention to build a 150-megawatt, coal-fired plant alongside the gas plant, and therefore did not account for the total air emissions expected from the combined facility.
Lisa Graves Marcucci, a community outreach coordinator with the Environmental Integrity Project, presented the letter to township supervisors during a public hearing Monday night.
The nonprofit organization represents Robinson resident Cathy Lodge and other members of the citizens group Residents Against the Power Plant.
Ms. Graves Marcucci said Robinson Power's air quality approval should be based on the whole facility, which would be subject to more stringent pollution and review standards.
"They are trying yet again to get air permitting that doesn't fit the facility," Ms. Graves Marcucci said.
The state's recent approval of the air quality plan as a minor pollution source was premature and should be rescinded, and Robinson Power should be required to submit a new plan reflecting the entire facility as a major pollution source, according to the letter, which was signed by an attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project and representatives of the Vermont Law School's Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic.
Unlike minor pollution sources, major sources must analyze potential air quality impacts and use best available emission controls, the letter says.
Robinson Power consultant Carmine Gagliardi, who helped design the facility, said the coal and gas plants would operate independently but would share personnel, services and facilities such as water purification systems and tanks.
The power plants are proposed for 37 acres bounded by Routes 22 and 980 and Candor and Beech Hollow roads, near the North Fayette border.
Robinson Power originally planned to generate electricity with a 300-gross-megawatt plant fueled primarily by 38 million tons of waste coal on an adjacent, 777-acre parcel owned by Champion Processing Inc.
Now, the company is applying to the township for permission to reduce the size of the coal plant and fuel half the facility with natural gas due to the Marcellus Shale boom.
Raymond J. Bologna, a principal member of Robinson Power and secretary of Champion Processing, said the gob pile still would be burned, but at a rate of about 1.2 million tons a year for 22 years, rather than 2.4 million tons a year for 15 years, he said.
The total life of the power plant could extend to approximately 30 or 40 years, he said.
Additional fuel sources would include coal that's mined from beneath the Champion property, millions of tons of waste coal trucked in from outside sources, and processed natural gas delivered via pipeline, he said.
"With the advent of the Marcellus Shale in the region and its abundance, we decided to create two power plants side-by-side," Mr. Bologna said.
Joseph Pezze, an air consultant for Robinson Power, confirmed the company has received a state air permit for the gas plant but has not yet submitted an application for the waste coal side.
The state DEP had issued an air permit for the original, 300-gross-megawatt coal plant but revoked it last year after construction lapsed for more than 18 months.
Mr. Pezze said burning half gas and half waste coal would reduce yearly emissions by 60 percent compared to burning only the coal.
Jennifer Iriti, a North Fayette resident downwind of the power plant site, said while air pollution may be reduced on an annual basis by adding the gas component, the change would not reduce total pollution, as the waste coal still would be burned in its entirety.
"Cumulatively, over time, there are health consequences, and I care," Ms. Iriti said.
David Zurn, a Gibsonia resident with a business in Robinson, said modern power plant technology is safe and efficient.
"I'm comfortable with it, and I think it would spur development of this area," he said. "The biggest question is if you want it here."
Supervisors Brian Coppola and George Lucchino -- Russ Dysert was absent -- listened to three hours of testimony from Robinson Power representatives and several members of the public before voting to continue the hearing at 7 p.m. Sept. 12 in the municipal building, 8400 Noblestown Road.
In 2006, Robinson supervisors had granted approval -- with more than 50 conditions -- for Robinson Power to construct a power plant using circulating fluidized bed boilers fueled by waste coal, a usable but low-grade byproduct of coal processing operations.
Robinson Power now seeks to modify that conditional use approval by cutting the size of the boilers by half and adding the combined cycle gas turbine combustion process as a permitted technology.
Mr. Bologna said the power plant project has been planned since about 1987.
First Published August 18, 2011 5:46 am