A Chicago-based company, Invenergy, has been attempting to construct a shale gas-fired power plant in Allegheny County since 2016.
This 639-MegaWatt plant is proposed along the Youghiogheny River, near the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail, and would constitute another major source of air pollution in a county that rates as one of the worst for air quality in the country. It will also involve a thermal discharge into the Youghiogheny River, which will have adverse effects on wildlife and recreation.
As the power plant is proposed on the Westmoreland County/Allegheny County border, adjacent to the Environmental Justice neighborhoods of West Newton and Sutersville, it would affect a range of quiet, residential areas.
The development has sparked fierce community backlash—being successfully ousted from its initial proposed location in the suburban Buena Vista. To date, the power plant has not been constructed, and Mountain Watershed Association continues to help residents oppose this development that could endanger our air quality, climate, and watershed.
- The gas-fired power plant is suggested along the Yough near Henderson Road, a former hazardous waste dump.
- The Elizabeth Township Zoning Hearing Board denies the application for a special use variance to build the power plant in a suburban, residential area of Buena Vista.
- After community pushback, a new site is proposed along the Allegheny/Westmoreland County border across from Sutersville in Smithdale.
- Invenergy proposes a site along the GAP Trail and have a thermal discharge into the Youghiogheny River. This would require a change in the township’s zoning ordinance an zoning map of 140 acres of land from rural residential to light industrial, with power plants as a permitted use.
- The Planning Division of Allegheny County Economic Development advises against these amendments and states that it “likely constitutes a spot zoning.”
- The Board of Commissioners vote to deny Invenergy’s proposed amendments.
- Invenergy resubmits a revised application to rezone the Casturo Property in Smithdale.
- Despite vehement opposition, the Elizabeth Township Commissioners hold a public hearing just 5 days before Christmas to decide whether to create the largest industrial zone in the township’s history.
- After listening to more than three hours of public comment in opposition to the proposal, the commissioners vote 4-3 to pass the controversial ordinance. This makes building a gas-fired power plant as easy to build in Elizabeth Township as a garden center.
- A legal challenge was immediately filed the following day, as the commissioners had no meeting minutes recorded where they discussed the proposal, despite having been submitted eight months prior—violating their fiduciary responsibility.
- The draft host agreement becomes available, which enumerate mutual obligations that could prove highly problematic for the township’s future.
- One such instance includes a $25 million donation from Invenergy to the township for infrastructure repair, contingent on vague qualifiers that are for Invenergy’s sole discretion. In addition, Invenergy must receive financial backing which is on terms they deem “acceptable.”
- Draft air permit is released by the Allegheny County Health Department. An Environmental Justice Community Meeting is held with high attendance, all residents speaking in opposition to the permit’s release.
- Despite public opposition, Allegheny County Health Department issued the air permit for Invenergy’s Allegheny Energy Center. Mountain Watershed Association, represented by Environmental Integrity Project, alongside Clean Air Council and PennFuture appealed the issuance of the air permit. The outcome of that permit appeal is pending.
- During the appeal process, MWA works with community group, EIP and Clean Air Council to create a website dedicated to information about the proposed Invenergy plant and the community group. Visit the site.
- MWA helps pen a divestment letter campaign open to sign-ons from the public. It states: “Invenergy calls itself a leader in wind and solar energy. But Invenergy is proposing to build a polluting methane gas power plant in Pennsylvania that will only encourage and prolong fossil gas development. Blackstone’s announcement that it will no longer invest in oil and gas production is commendable, but this commitment must also extend to gas-fired power plants.” Sign on here!