August 30, 2022

Judge Rules Power Plant Air Pollution Limits Illegally High

RENOVO, PA (August 30, 2022) - Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board ruled in favor of three environmental groups in their appeal of the air pollution permit for a large proposed gas-fired power plant in Clinton County, finding that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection set two limits too high for two harmful pollutants. The ruling comes in the middle of a legal challenge which continues toward trial on other claims. 


The Board granted partial summary judgment on the issues of the sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compounds limits in the permits. That means that the environmental groups proved, without needing a trial, that DEP broke the law when it allowed the power plant to emit such high levels of pollution. High levels of sulfur dioxide can cause health problems including hurting lung function, causing wheezing and shortness of breath. Volatile organic compound pollution may irritate people’s eyes, nose, and throat, increase cancer risk, and damage the central nervous system. The Board’s opinion is here.


In 2021, Clean Air Council, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), and Center for Biological Diversity lodged their appeal of the permit for the Renovo Energy Center, a gas-fired power plant which Bechtel Corporation proposes to build just feet away from the homes and businesses of the environmental justice community of Renovo, in north-central Pennsylvania.


The groups objected to the permit because it allows illegal levels of air pollution, the DEP ignored environmental justice concerns and the costs to society in issuing the permit, and based on several other deficiencies spelled out in the Notice of Appeal


“This ruling is vindication for the community,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. “DEP must set pollution limits to protect the public based on science and law, not on the whims of the polluter.”


“DEP had simply not done what the law requires to protect the community from these types of emissions,” said Jessica O’Neill, senior attorney at PennFuture. “The Board recognized this clear violation, and we will continue to press the rest of our claims against this flawed permit.”


“Trying to build a new methane-gas burning power plant at this point is just absurd,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We need to be shifting to clean, cheap energy like solar and wind rather than dirty, expensive power plants which burn methane gas.”

The environmental groups’ claims on other matters, including DEP’s failure to follow its own Environmental Justice policy, still remain before the court.



PennFuture is leading the transition to a clean energy economy in Pennsylvania and beyond. We are protecting our air, water and land, and empowering citizens to build sustainable communities for future generations. Visit


Clean Air Council is a member-supported, non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting everyone's right to a healthy environment. The Council has offices in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Wilmington, and works through public education, community advocacy, and government oversight to ensure enforcement of environmental laws. For more information, please visit


The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

News Contacts:

Alex Bomstein, Legal Director, Clean Air Council,

Jessica O’Neill, Senior Attorney, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, 

Robert Ukeiley, Senior Attorney, Center for Biological Diversity, 720-496-8568,