County officials want solution to permit flap

DEP?issue impacting Croda expansion project

LOCK HAVEN — The Clinton County commissioners would like the state Department of Environmental Protection to come up with a solution to its flub over issuing general permits for earth disturbance as required for large-scale residential, commercial and industrial expansion projects.

After the critical date of Dec. 7 and because of what commissioners characterized as an “unbelievable” delay by DEP over re-authorizing and publishing updated regulations, it appears there will be a waiting period — of several months — during which the county Conservation District will not be able to act on what are called PAG-02 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits.

The delays are already impacting a proposed $35 million investment by chemical manufacturer Croda Inc. in Bald Eagle Township, and could potentially impact the second phase of First Quality’s construction for and installation of a third tissue-and-towel-making machine in Castanea Township.

These delays could cost the companies and other developers time and money, Commissioner Jeff Snyder said at Monday’s work session.

Last week, the county planning commission recommended approval of a Croda plan to expand the oil refining capacity at the local plant, but the plan will be delayed because it cannot make the Dec. 7 deadline imposed by DEP for all NPDES general permits, which are required for such projects.

After that date, the new regulations will be published with a required public comment period, but they won’t go into effect until spring 2018.

“Somebody in Harrisburg did not do their jobs,” Snyder said.

“We’re very unhappy about this situation,” Commissioner Pete Smeltz added. “DEP needs to put something in place so this (delay) does not cause hardship. The deadline has been in place for some time. It’s unbelievable.”

The commissioners went on to criticize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for “having such a tight grip” on earth disturbance permits, including those for stormwater discharge. They explained the federal Clean Waters Act gives the federal government power over states on these types of issues.

Two types of NPDES permits have been available: one is a general permit, or PAGO-02, the other is an individual permit with authorization that does not run out.

The EPA has changed the earth-disturbance threshold from five acres to one acre for construction sites that have stormwater runoff into tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay.

That change must be authorized after a required public notification period, thus the temporary suspension of general permit activity.

Croda’s plans impact 1.8 acres and include a new building and changes to the parking lot which will affect stormwater runoff into Bald Eagle Creek, a tributary of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

Mary Ann Bower, manager of the county Conservation District, said DEP will conduct a listening session today when she believes the agency will outline a “work-around” that should not necessarily cause undue delay in issuing permits.

“They’re going to give us guidance,” she told The Express.

During the re-authorization, Bower said, she believes DEP will allow permittees to apply for individual permits, instead of general permits, and will even waive the higher cost.

“The individual permit costs more, but they will allow us to collect the fee for the general permit, which is cheaper. That’s a good thing. They thought that through,” Bower said. “This ‘work-around’ they’re talking about I would hope would not have any impacts as far as holding up permits.”

Croda manufactures and supplies natural-based specialty chemicals to personal care, pharmaceutical, household and industrial markets. SRO refining purifies the oil without altering its triglyceride profile.

The firm’s expansion would create four to six new positions.