The next step for a proposed $750 million power plant project in North Beaver Township, Lawrence County took place Wednesday night.
About a dozen residents, business leaders, township and county officials gave testimony in front of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in regards to the proposed power plant project known as the Hickory Run Energy plant.
LS Power wants to build a natural gas-fired electric generation plant and substation on a 55 acre site along the Mahoning River near Route 551. Residents filled the North Beaver Volunteer Fire Department in support and in opposition to the project. Some claim there is not a need for such a large power plant, since demand for electricity has declined in the region.
“This is like build it and they will come. It’s crazy,” said North Beaver Township resident Margaret Henry. “It’s just because we’re supposed to have all this Marcellus shale in the area that all of a sudden Whammo, let’s build a natural gas power plant to supply it.”
LS Power project manager Casey Carroll said his company is committed to using the best-available technologies for air emissions control and will pump in water from the New Castle treatment plant to use in the cooling process.
“Lots of older coal-fired generations is retiring, something on the order of 3,000 megawatts,” said Carroll. “Our plant is only 900, and so we’re only replacing just a fraction of what is retiring.”
County and township officials are already on board.
“We are a county that is in compliance for air quality standards,” said Lawrence County Commissioner Steve Craig. “We want to protect that, and we believe this facility will.”
“This project will bring a lot of good construction jobs, 25 permanent jobs to the community as well as major tax revenues for the school district, the county, the township and fire department,” said Carroll.
Still, residents at Wednesday’s meeting were split down the middle in their opinions of the proposed plant.
“Everybody here who is in support of this plant, you’re all gonna benefit financially, every single one of you,” said Volant resident Carrie Hahn. “The money isn’t gonna mean anything if we don’t have clean air and clean water to drink.”
Opponents want local leaders to consider renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.
The PADEP will take under advisement and research all the testimony before deciding whether to grant air and water permits for the project so it can move forward.