Public to weigh in on proposed power plant in Berks County

Written by Rachel McDevitt | Nov 1, 2017 3:32 PM

(Harrisburg) -- A Berks County community will have the chance to weigh in on a proposed natural gas power plant Thursday night.

At a public hearing, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is expected to gather opinions on three related topics: the project itself, a proposed 14-mile pipeline to carry natural gas to the site, and a plan from the Reading Area Water Authority to provide cooling water for the plant.

The facility narrowly won conditional approval from the Birdsboro Borough Council in January. 

The natural gas and steam electric power plant would sit on 30 acres of an old steel mill on the banks of the Schuylkill River.

Karen Feridun of the anti-fracking group Berks Gas Truth plans to organize a demonstration before the hearing. She said, at best, the plant is unnecessary because Pennsylvania already makes more electricity than it can use.

"So it's not like we have any sort of shortage, we don't have a need," she said.

Feridun said she's also concerned about the potential impact to water quality along the pipeline route. 

She pointed to issues with the nearby Mariner East 2 pipeline, which include a court ruling that briefly halted construction over the summer after dozens of water contamination incidents. Some of those incidents happened in Dauphin, Lebanon, Lancaster, Cumberland, and Berks counties.

Supporters of the plant say it will create hundreds of construction jobs, along with 30 full time positions when the plant is up and running.

DEP representative John Repetz said the agency will consider all public comments and questions, and respond to each one following the hearing. He added DEP must base any decisions on the proposed projects on existing regulations, not simply opinions.

The public hearing will take place Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Boone Area Library, 129 North Mill St., Birdsboro.

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