Thursday December 21, 2017
MUHLENBERG TOWNSHIP, PA
About a dozen people gathered outside of state Sen. Judy Schwank's office in Muhlenberg Township on Wednesday to protest against two energy infrastructure projects underway in Birdsboro and the surrounding area.
The two projects are a natural gas and steam-electric power plant on the former Armorcast manufacturing site and a pipeline that will transport natural gas to the power plant from the Texas Eastern transmission line in Oley Township.
Berks Gas Truth, an environmental activist group, announced the rally after news broke last week that Birdsboro Power LLC, a subsidiary of EmberClear Corp. of Canada and the company planning to build the new power plant, filed a lawsuit against the federal government.
The company is trying to recover costs associated with cleaning up hazardous materials left from mid-20th century war-production activities.
The lawsuit states that Birdsboro Power became aware of the remaining contaminants through two assessments conducted by AMO Environmental Decisions. The assessments, released in April and July 2016, found polychlorinated biphenyl, volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds and asbestos at various locations on the site.
Birdsboro Power bought the site in October 2016. The company could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
“We're talking today about the fact that they're getting ready to approve these things, our federal regulators and our state regulators,” said Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth, “when we know now that there is significant remaining contamination on the site.”
Feridun said that between 2004 and 2009, the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Protection conducted cleanup efforts on the power plant site, efforts that Birdsboro Power's lawsuit would indicate have been unsuccessful.
The group held red and white signs that said “No Pipeline! No Power Plant!” and a couple of people honked as they drove by.
Feridun mentioned a Nov. 16 safety incident at the site in which a construction worker accidentally punctured a chlorine gas tank and inhaled chlorine gas.
After about 20 minutes outside the building, the demonstrators walked inside and upstairs to Schwank's office to deliver a letter requesting that she call on the DEP not to award the final environmental permits to Birdsboro Power LLC and to DTE Midstream Appalachia, the company building the pipeline.
Schwank was not in the office Wednesday, but her chief of staff, Bill Evans, greeted the group and invited them to sit down and discuss their concerns.
Evans told them they have every right to expect DEP to go through the proper channels when it reviews permits. He also provided copies of a letter sent Monday by Schwank to Joseph Adams, regional director of the DEP, urging Adams to consider the concerns of Feridun and other constituents regarding the contamination at the site.
Schwank's letter was attached to an initial letter sent by Feridun and Berks Gas Truth.
If the DEP awards the final permits for the project, which have to do with the crossing of wetlands and floodplains, among other concerns, Feridun said she will reach out to other environmental organizations to explore the possibility of filing a lawsuit.
“It's just too many ‘ifs,' too many unknowns,” Feridun said. “We need to hear back from our regulators. We need answers. We need further examination of this whole problem.”
Lindsey O'Laughlin: 610-371-5027 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Groups protests, seeking to have Birdsboro power plant permit denied