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NatGas-Fired Power Plant Comes Closer to Approval in Southwest Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has scheduled an open house and formal public hearing for a proposed 950 MW natural gas-fired power plant that's been planned for years in the southwest part of the state.

Nebraska-based Tenaska has filed several of the necessary environmental permits and Westmoreland County has given the plant approval to go forward with construction at a 400-acre site in South Huntingdon Township, about 45 miles south of Pittsburgh.

Residents living near the site, though, have expressed concerns about the safety of the facility, especially since it was revealed in local news media reports that Tenaska had filed to make more than 1 million gallons of daily discharges from the plant to the nearby Youghiogheny River.

According to the company's National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit, which it must obtain along with an air quality plan approval before construction can begin, Tenaska wants to discharge the water it will use to cool power generation equipment into the river. The DEP has issued a draft approval for that request and another for a Tenaska affiliate to build and operate the plant.

South Huntingdon has no zoning laws, however, leaving residents with little recourse other than to voice their concerns with county officials, which they did at a recent commissioner's meeting. The DEP said the open house will also allow state officials and Tenaska personnel to present details about the project, which the company says would create up to 300 jobs during construction and another 25 permanent jobs once the facility is operational.

A public hearing is also expected to attract supporters and opponents of the project as DEP will be accepting public comment for consideration in its approvals.

Tenaska's facility is one of a dozen or so planned for Pennsylvania, where more projects have been announced to utilize growing supplies of Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas for the region's power needs (see Daily GPI, Nov. 3, 2014). Only one natural gas-fired power plant has started construction, though. In May, Dallas-based Panda Power Funds LP officially broke ground on an 829 MW facility in Bradford County on the other side of the state (see Daily GPI, May 16, 2014).

Tenaska announced the project in 2009 and said ground could be broken as early as 2012. It is now aiming to begin construction later this year and hopes to have the facility operational by 2018.

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