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Keep Renovo healthy; deny power plant permits, access

I live in Renovo, less than 100 yards from the site of the proposed Renovo Energy Center, a large-scale natural gas-fired power plant. I am a founding member of Renovo Residents for a Healthy Environment — a group of Renovo residents dedicated to protecting Renovo residents’ air quality, quality of life, and public health from the building and operation of this power plant.

Our members oppose the Renovo power plant because we are deeply concerned about the very high levels of harmful air pollution it would emit and the negative health effects it could have on our community.

We believe this power plant is unwanted, unnecessary, and will provide no benefits to residents — only burdens.

This power plant would emit air pollution that can harm public health, especially in vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly. If built, the power plant would emit annually over 200 tons of particulate matter (fine soot), over 300 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and over 100 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs that would be emitted by the plant include formaldehyde, which is classified as a probable human carcinogen. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NOx and VOCs react with heat in the atmosphere to form ground-level ozone (smog), which can aggravate lung diseases and other pre-existing respiratory issues.

What’s worse, the plant would emit nearly 5.5 million tons of greenhouse gases (such as methane and carbon dioxide) each year, which would worsen climate change at the very time scientists say we need to rapidly cut this pollution. That’s more climate pollution than is emitted each year by all sources in the entire city of Pittsburgh combined.

Scientists say that hotter temperatures from climate change will result in increased smog levels.

While a Bechtel-commissioned report claims that the project would support up to several hundred short-term jobs, the company has not committed to hiring local residents to fill these positions, and the report estimates it would employ 25 to 35 people once the plant is constructed. The report states that the jobs at the power plant “may lead to a small number of local support jobs; however, the relatively small number of permanent positions is not expected to cause significant commercial or industrial growth in Renovo or its surrounding communities.”

In addition, the proposed site for the plant is considered a Federal Qualified Opportunity Zone (QOZ), which allows Bechtel, a multinational engineering corporation, to defer or not pay federal taxes on capital gains at the Renovo plant.

What’s worse is that the electricity from this plant is not even needed in Pennsylvania!

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Pennsylvania is the third largest net supplier of electricity to other states. The electricity generated from the power plant receiving this gas would go into the PJM grid to transport it to a dozen other states and Washington D.C., and possibly New York’s power grid.

With all of these downsides to the project, it’s extremely frustrating that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) denied Renovo residents the opportunity to learn more about the proposed power plant and raise concerns about the air permit during a public hearing, even though dozens of Renovo residents asked for one.

So far as we’re concerned, DEP approved the air permit for this power plant without following its own policy to create and implement an enhanced public participation process. Our group is calling on Secretary McDonnell at the DEP to re-open the comment period for this permit in order to hold a public meeting and hearing about it, and then seriously consider residents’ concerns before making a final decision about the permit.

Right now, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has the opportunity to do the right thing and prioritize residents’ health by denying access to precious valuable resources to this pipeline.

Our group strongly urges DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn to deny the application to Renovo Energy to construct its 16-inch pipeline through the Sproul State Forest.

The pipeline will require over 20 acres of trees to be cleared, which will fragment the forest, promote invasive species, and diminish its beauty. The project will fill two Exceptional Value wetlands, which Pennsylvania is supposed to protect at the highest level, and fill or excavate a number of High Quality streams, which are given the state’s second highest level of protection.

Again, so far as we’re concerned, this pipeline would provide no public benefit, only injury, to a much beloved and used public resource. DCNR has the authority to deny this pipeline and it should do so now.

The facts speak for themselves.

We believe this plant is opposed by a growing number of residents, is unnecessary for providing electricity, and will provide virtually no benefits to residents — only the burdens of year after year of harmful air pollution and the negative health impacts that could come with it. Pennsylvania agencies must step it up and do the right thing to keep Renovo healthy.

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