Clean Air Council Appeals Air Quality Permit For Beech Hollow Gas-Fired Power Plant In Washington County

The Robinson Power Company LLC’s proposed 1,000-megawatt Beech Hollow plant would emit hundreds of tons of noxious pollutants and millions of tons of climate pollutants annually in a part of Southwestern Pennsylvania where residents already suffer from some of the worst air quality in the U.S.

The Notice of Appeal filed by the Clean Air Council, represented by its own attorneys and the Environmental Integrity Project, asserts that the Department of Environmental Protection’s attempt to put back in place a defunct permit, originally approved in 2017, without going through any required review or public hearings is illegal and without effect. The result is that Robinson Power has no valid permit to build the power plant at all.

Clean Air Council July 14 appealed the permit granted by DEP for the project in June 2021. 

But then DEP, in a letter on August 23, tried to render the appeal pointless by authorizing Robinson Power Company to proceed and build the plant with a defunct permit that had been displaced by the permit currently under appeal. 

Under state and federal law, the old permit died when DEP replaced it with the new permit, and it cannot simply be brought back on an agency’s whim.

“The point of DEP’s letter is to try to get rid of our appeal while still letting the company build the plant under a dead permit,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. “Zombie permits have no place in the permitting system, and DEP knows it. DEP should be ashamed of its part in this chicanery.”

“DEP’s manipulation of the permitting process violates US EPA and DEP’s own guidance and policy,” said Philip Sebasco, an attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project. “DEP is allowing the use of outdated air emissions analyses that will increase harm to the community and the environment. The point of DEP’s letter is to try to get rid of our appeal while still letting the company build the plant under a dead permit.”

Cathy Lodge, a nearby resident and Clean Air Council member, said: “My community continues to suffer the ill effects of the shale gas industrialization of once beautiful farmlands. It is infuriating to know that the very agency charged with protecting our health and environment from polluters is actually working to protect them by enabling an illegal process that could add pollution to our community while attempting to remove our voices from the permitting process.” 

Clean Air Council also objects to the permit because it allows unlawfully high levels of air pollution in an area already suffering from poor air quality. 

Click Here for a copy of the notice of appeal.

Visit DEP’s Beech Hollow Project webpage for more information on agency actions related to this project.

[Posted: September 14, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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