Another Attempt to Build a Gas-Fired Power Plant in Elizabeth Township

Invenergy, via their subsidiary Allegheny Energy Corporation (AEC), has initiated what appears to be their fourth attempt to construct a 550 megawatt gas-fired power plant in the residentially zoned neighborhoods of Elizabeth Township.  In 2016, the township’s zoning hearing board voted to deny Invenergy their request for a zoning variance that would allow the power plant to be constructed in the residential Buena Vista neighborhood. Then, in 2017, the township Board of Commissioners voted to deny Invenergy’s request to rezone a parcel in the also residential neighborhood of Smithdale.  Over the past winter, the company puzzlingly submitted and then quickly withdrew what seemed to be a third application to rezone the Smithdale parcel. And now, in early June of 2018, Invenergy has submitted yet another application to rezone the same parcel in Smithdale.

In response to Invenergy’s initial request to rezone the parcel in Smithdale, the Planning Division of Allegheny County submitted a four-page letter detailing their concerns with Invenergy’s application.  These covered various issues including: the lack of required application materials such as a text amendment or a map exhibit, proximity to the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail, incompatibility with the township’s strategic plan, and the probability that the rezoning would constitute illegal spot zoning.

Shortly after the County submitted their letter of concern, the ET Board of Commissioners voted to deny the application as it was submitted.  In their most recent submission, it appears that Invenergy has attempted to address some of the County’s concerns regarding missing information.  For example, they included which parcels were proposed to be rezoned and the proposed text amendment. However, the proposal does nothing to address the fundamental issues that were highlighted by the County.  The proposal would still likely: constitute illegal spot zoning, contradict the township’s strategic goal of preserving natural areas by the Youghiogheny River, and negatively impact environmental health and tourism.

In particular, Invenergy’s power plant would likely require a permit to discharge wastewater into the Youghiogheny River. The discharge would include thermal pollution, since it is discharged at a significantly higher temperature than the river water. Just 5 miles downstream, the Tenaska power plant is being constructed in Smithton, and their permit will allow them to discharge 1 million gallons of 110 degree wastewater into the Yough daily. Permitting the Invenergy power plant could significantly stress the river, affecting aquatic life and the fishers and paddlers who recreate there.

Mountain Watershed Association will continue working on the ground with people in Elizabeth Township and the grassroots organization, Protect Elizabeth Township, to try to challenge Invenergy’s application to rezone the parcel needed to build their power plant. Opportunity for public comment on Invenergy’s application will be happening at the Planning Commission meeting on July 2nd at 7pm at the Elizabeth Township Municipal Building (522 Rock Run Road, Elizabeth PA 15037). We encourage those who are concerned about the potential development to attend and speak at the meeting. If you are interested in getting involved in the organizing efforts happening against the Invenergy power plant, feel free to reach out Ashley at