Today, the Bechtel Corporation announced that it is withdrawing its plan to develop a fracked gas-fired power plant at the former rail yard in Renovo Borough, Clinton County.
In 2021, Clean Air Council, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), and the Center for Biological Diversity lodged their appeal of the DEP air quality permit for the Renovo Energy Center, which would have been built 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, ignored environmental justice concerns and the health costs to society in issuing the permit, and for several other deficiencies spelled out in the Notice of Appeal.
In August 2022, the environmental groups won some of their challenges to the permit before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board. The Board granted partial summary judgment on the issues of the illegal 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 pollution levels. 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.
Now, the developers behind the facility have announced that they have chosen to end their attempts to build this fracked gas plant.
“Bechtel’s decision to cancel this dangerous plant is a crucial win for the health, welfare and safety of the residents of Renovo, who have been peddled lies about this project's purported benefits and illegally cut out of the permitting process,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. “Pennsylvania’s economic growth depends on a clean energy future and will not be achieved by pumping millions of tons of air pollution every year right into the heart of communities like Renovo.”
“Our lawsuit was about protecting Pennsylvania and this environmental justice community from the additional pollution burdens that this plant would have imposed,” said Jessica O’Neill, Senior Attorney at PennFuture. “It is a win for Renovo and for all Pennsylvanians when we realize that the fracked gas industry doesn’t make sense - from an economic, energy, or environmental health perspective. We will continue to push back against facilities and industries that threaten the health of our communities, our workers, and the sustainable energy future that Pennsylvanians want and that our children deserve.”
“The cancellation of this proposed fracked gas burning power plant helps move us forward to a future powered by wind and solar power,” said Robert Ukeiley, an environmental health lawyer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Every step away from fossil fuels is a step toward averting both climate disaster and the biodiversity crisis.”
“As a great-grandparent, I’m grateful that this power plant didn’t come to fruition because we are now able to protect what is most important - the health of our children,” said Sue Cannon, co-founder of Renovo Residents for a Healthy Environment. “I opposed the power plant because I was thinking about the children in this community, especially my great-grandchild, and what the pollution would do to their health. After all, children are our most precious assets.”
“This decision gives us great hope for the future of Renovo’s health, quality of life, and future prosperity,” said Maureen Ruhl, co-founder of Renovo Residents for a Healthy Environment. “We look forward to building Renovo’s future with a vision based on tourism, our natural resources, recreation, and our railroad history - all of which we hold dear.”
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 www.cleanair.org.
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 www.pennfuture.org.
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.