Chicago-based Invenergy LLC has filed a lawsuit against a Southwest Pennsylvania township for its decision to reject a zoning variance that would allow the company's proposed 550 MW natural gas-fired power plant to be built.

In an appeal filed with the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, the company argues that its proposed site would be nearly impossible for a residential developer to restore and use. Invenergy wants to construct the facility on a 600-acre stretch of land that once accepted coal sludge and demolition waste from the steel industry and other businesses. Its plant would take up about 20 acres of the site, which has sat dormant for years.

The company argued before township officials that the site is not fit for residential development as it is currently zoned. In June, the Elizabeth Township zoning hearing board voted four-to-one against the zoning variance (see Daily GPIJune 17). At the time, the company accused the board of caving to public pressure and said it would appeal the decision in court.

Given the site's history and concerns about the facility's operations, emissions and possible noise, some residents have rallied against the power plant. The company has hosted three public hearings about its proposal that attracted opposition. After the first hearing, Protect Elizabeth Township was formed by concerned residents who want the plant stopped.

Invenergy has responded with its own group, Elizabeth Citizens for Progress, gathering members at election polling places, through neighborhood canvassing and relying on others who came forward on their own to join the group. Its court documents list members of the group and provide comments in support of the project.

Invenergy has developed more than 13,000 MW of wind, solar and natural gas power projects in the United States, Canada and Europe. It's already developing a 1,500 MW gas-fired plant in Northeast Pennsylvania (see Daily GPIDec. 28, 2015). The company received its air quality permit from state regulators for that project last year.

The plant in Elizabeth Township, which is about 20 miles south of Pittsburgh, would cost about $350 million to construct over two years and create 200-300 temporary jobs. It is one of dozens of similar facilities that have been proposed or approved in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to utilize natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shales (see Daily GPIMay 13).