This Tuesday, October 5, the gas-fired power plant proposed for Elizabeth Township known as Invenergy’s “Allegheny Energy Center” received its air emissions permit from the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD). Although this issuance might seem like a grim sign for residents opposed to the new major source of pollution, Invenergy has many more hurdles to clear before it can break ground.
Earlier this year, residents turned out in spades for the air permit’s public hearing to voice their concerns. Over 200 community members joined the meeting and voiced unanimous opposition to the proposed power plant and its 180-foot smoke towers. Any pollutants from Invenergy are certain to settle over the famous GAP Trail and Youghiogheny River, both of which continue to be flourishing economic drivers for the tourism of biking, hiking, and fishing. In a county already earning an “F” rating by the American Lung Association, residents have run out of patience.
Unfortunately, additional voices may have been lost to technical difficulties, as ACHD’s Zoom account only allowed 100 participants onto the call until well after the 6pm start time. While the technical difficulty was eventually solved, many participants may have given up on attending. Lost comments may have resulted in an easier time stamping the permit, though the residents who were able to speak sent a resounding message: this development is not necessary, popular, or healthy.
Still, even with its crisp new air permit, Invenergy has a long way to go. Before construction can begin, the company will need to obtain a host agreement, a land use permit, a NPDES permit for water discharge, and possibly a water withdrawal permit – none of which are guaranteed. Given the community’s stance on the proposed development, few things are as certain as local opposition in defense of the river valley’s natural beauty and its air quality.
For instance, in 2019, Invenergy proposed a host agreement that, to the best of our knowledge, remains unsigned. Mountain Watershed Association is also prepared to support a legal challenge to Elizabeth Township’s 2018 decision to rezone the 147-acre parcel to light industrial with power plants as a permitted use. MWA believes that changing the designation of the parcel – which is surrounded by uses like residential, rural, and agricultural – constitutes illegal “spot zoning”. If successful, the suit would invalidate the Commissioner’s decision entirely and no industrial development would be allowed at the site.
Going forward, Mountain Watershed Association will continue to monitor any steps taken by Invenergy and work with community members to support efforts to keep the Youghiogheny Rivershed safe and clean. In partnership with organizations like Clean Air Council and the Environmental Integrity Project, MWA will also be taking a deep look at the decisions made with the issuance of this air permit to assess our best path forward. Stay tuned for updates!
If you have any questions about the Invenergy power plant, please contact James Cato, Community Organizer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-405-1077 #10, or reference past blogs on our Invenergy page.