Allegheny County Recommends No Rezoning for Power Plant in Elizabeth Township

Recently, the Planning Division of Allegheny County Economic Development issued a comment to the Elizabeth Township Board of Commissioners on a proposed rezoning in order to develop a gas-fired power plant. The comment advised the Commissioners not to amend their zoning ordinance and zoning map for such an incompatible use in the township.

For over a year, the Chicago-based corporation Invenergy has been looking to build a 550-megawatt gas-fired power plant known as the Allegheny Energy Center (AEC) in Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County. In June 2016, the Elizabeth Township Zoning Hearing Board denied the company’s application for a special use variance in order to build the power plant in a suburban, residential area. Invenergy has since appealed that decision, which is awaiting a ruling from the Commonwealth Court. In the meantime, the company has been considering another area in the township along the Youghiogheny River near the community of Smithdale.

In order for the new site, known as the Casturo Property, to accommodate the AEC, Invenergy has suggested a change in the township’s zoning ordinance and zoning map. The proposed amendment would alter the zoning of 140 acres of the land from rural residential to light industrial, with power plants as a permitted use.

However, the Planning Division of Allegheny County Economic Development recently advised against the adoption of Invenergy’s proposed zoning amendments. The County cites a number of shortfalls in the proposed amendment, including that the change is incompatible with Elizabeth Township’s comprehensive plan and that it “likely constitutes a spot zoning”.

Further, the proposed site for the power plant is visible from the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail, which is a designated National Recreation Trail that attracts thousands of tourists to our region each year. The area under consideration also includes Allegheny GREENPRINT lands, which are designated as “high value conservation lands due to their biological diversity, role in protecting watersheds and water quality, and scenic value”.

However, the County’s recommendation is not binding, and the Board of Commissioners will need to vote on Invenergy’s proposed amendments themselves. The public meeting to comment on the zoning changes will take place Tuesday, September 12th at 6 PM at the Municipal Building on Rock Run Road in Elizabeth Township. If you are a concerned or impacted citizen, we encourage you to attend and give public comment.

Regardless of location, a gas-fired power plant has no place in Elizabeth Township. Concerns include air, water, noise and light pollution; increased truck traffic; and decreased property values. In addition, the Mariner East pipelines, which carry highly explosive natural gas liquids, run just .1 mile away from the proposed power plant. Not to mention, an increase in natural gas infrastructure will likely open up additional markets for natural gas combustion, leading to more fracking in Southwestern PA. In order to secure our rights to clean air and water – and protect the communities we call home – we must continue working to oppose the construction of the Allegheny Energy Center in Elizabeth Township.

You can find the full comment from the Planning Division of Allegheny County Economic Development here: Allegheny County Full Comment on Elizabeth Twp Rezoning.

Map that indicates two parcels of land along the Yough for proposed power plant