One of the longest power plant campaigns in Western Pennsylvania appears to have ended in a victory for the local citizens. Being of interest to the Sierra Club’s ‘Beyond Coal Campaign’ on these pages since 2008, the issue is the building in Robinson Twp. (Washington County) of a power plant fueled by waste coal. The initial plan called for a single 272-megawatt plant.
The DEP denied the Robinson Power Company (RPC) an air quality permit in 2010. Through pressure by local citizen groups and with the support of the Sierra Club and the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), the township supervisors recently approved a conditional use permit for one 150-MW natural gas plant and one 150-MW waste coal plant. As part of the permit the township would require an annual fee of $250,000 along with strict adherence to 55 conditions and guidelines for fly ash and monitoring of air and water quality. The township retains the authority to revoke the permit of the conditions are not met.
On January 11 the EIP issued a press release that stated in part:
Although the Board granted RPC a new conditional use permit for the new project, it attached 55 conditions to its approval and retained the authority to revoke the permit if RPC were to violate any of a number of the conditions. Among those conditions were that, for the first time, the Board is requiring quarterly air pollution monitoring for six dangerous air pollutants at the fenceline of the property, meaning the air pollution travelling into the community will be monitored. The Board is also requiring additional groundwater sampling of potentially impacted areas, which will allow the community to identify if the site’s activities are threatening public health through drinking water.
The decision comes after months of hearings on RPC’s application to modify the 2006 permit to add natural gas as a fuel source for the power plant. Working together, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), local community group Residents Against the Power Plant (RAPP) and the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic (ENRLC) from the Vermont Law School, challenged RPC’s application. They argued RPC was in fact proposing an entirely new project that required the Board to take a fresh look. The groups also presented the Board with documents showing decades of violations at the 600-acre waste coal site where RPC proposed burying coal ash from the power plant, including a recent release of contaminated sediment that fouled a creek more than half a mile downstream from where the facility is permitted to discharge treated wastewater.