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February 5, 2013

Electric plant gets OK for conditional use

NEW CASTLE — A woman was escorted out of the North Beaver Township supervisors meeting Monday after shouting a profanity.

A few others protested the harms they perceive that shale drilling and burning of the natural gas in an electric plant could cause the environment.

And one local farmer said he would welcome a natural-gas-powered electric plant in the community.

Following a two-hour public hearing Monday afternoon, the township supervisors unanimously approved a conditional use for a $750 million electricity generating plant to be built off Route 551 on the former American Cyanamid property.

The land is owned by the New Castle Development Corp., which has given LS Power Development an option to purchase it, explained David Wilson, LS senior environmental engineer.

He said the company, under the name Hickory Run Energy, is in the process of getting its local, state and federal permits, which include resolution of a wetlands issue.

The electric plant would replace the need created by the existing power plant in West Pittsburg, scheduled to close in 2015, Wilson said. He projected the new plant would create 500 construction jobs and 20 full-time jobs once it is in operation.

Construction, once all permits are in place, would start in 2014 and would be completed by 2016, he said.

After presentations by Wilson, attorney James Manolis and engineer Ron Rizzo, an emotional Lisa DeSantis of New Castle’s South Side spoke loudly of the potential hazards to water. She stood in front of the presenter’s easel and her speech crescendoed to shouting.

A township police officer instructed her several times to sit down and she sat and yelled a profanity. He promptly led her out of the building by the arm.

Maggie Henry, who owns an organic farm on Columbiana Road, expressed concern about toxins that might be released into the air from the plant.

Questions also were raised about the water that is to be transported by pipeline from the New Castle sanitation plant to the site.

“This is actually the beneficial part of our project,” Wilson explained. Currently, the sanitation authority deposits effluent from the plant into the Mahoning River. The power plant would recycle it and put it through a softening process and reuse it, then discharge it.

He said it would be cleaner than when it came out of the sewage plant. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is concerned for total dissolved solids going into Beaver Valley’s water intake, he said.

“Our process removes the amount of solids going into the water,” he said. “The dissolved solids will be fewer pounds per day than when we pick it up.”

 Brian Barth of Hope Road, Enon Valley, encouraged the supervisors to approve the conditional use.

“I think we need this kind of thing here,” he said. “I think we need to find ways to use more natural gas resources.”

Gas is cleaner than coal, and they don’t have to get rid of radioactive waste, he said. “... so let’s make (electricity) out of a resource the United States has and is plentiful.”

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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