Proposed Washington County Power Plant Withdraws Permit

A long-proposed, natural-gas fired power plant in Washington County apparently will not be built after the developer asked the state Department of Environmental Protection to withdraw its air quality permit amid legal challenges from environmental groups. The Beech Hollow plant was planned for a 37-acre site in Robinson Township. In 2017, the DEP approved an air-quality plan for a 1,000-megawatt, gas-fired, combined-cycle power plant to be developed by Robinson Power LLC. The combined cycle plant would use natural gas from the Appalachian shale basin to power turbines that will generate energy. In addition, the waste heat from the gas turbines will be used to power an auxiliary boiler that will provide steam for electric generation, creating more efficiency in producing energy. Robinson Power in 2019 asked for a modification of the plan for a 1,065 MW plant with an increase in turbine capacity and the addition of other equipment, and DEP approved the modified plan in June. After environmental groups challenged that approval, the company asked to terminate that plan and go back to the original permit. DEP reinstated that permit. The Clean Air Council filed an appeal with the Environmental Hearing Board, arguing that the original permit could not be reinstated, because it became defunct when the modified plan was approved. The Clean Air Council also sent information to the DEP that showed that Robinson Power did not intend to proceed with the project. “This evidence included that Robinson Power had withdrawn its request to connect with the regional electricity grid, had received a return of its construction escrow, and had failed to construct the plant in accordance with regulatory requirements. In response to the groups’ evidence, Robinson Power withdrew its permit and DEP announced the termination of all authorizations for the Beech Hollow project” a news release indicates. Under the original permit, the plant would have been allowed to emit about 2.9 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year, along with particulates and volatile organic compounds. The Clean Air Council argued it “would have been an enormous source of dangerous air pollution and greenhouse gases in a region where residents already suffer from some of the worst air quality in the entire United States.”

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