11.14.19 Bailiwick News – Post-election notes; air quality/public health threat updates: Penn State plans for West Campus Steam Plant expansion; UAJA sewage plant upgrade problems.
Penn State plans for West Campus Steam Plant expansion
Penn State has applied to Pa. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for state regulatory permission to install a Combustion Turbine/Heat Recovery Steam Generator (CT/HRSG) system at the West Campus Steam Plant in downtown State College.
Emissions from the steam plant already affect residents, workers and visitors downtown and on Penn State’s campus, in part due to construction of high-rise student apartment buildings that block pollutants from the emissions stacks from dispersing, and instead bounce pollutants back down to ground level given prevailing wind patterns.
Mark Huncik, an independent air quality expert and Highlands neighborhood resident who has been lobbying Borough Council for protective action on air quality issues for years, said the public comment period opened for the CT/HRSG project on Nov. 2, and lasts 30 days, expiring December 2, 2019.
Send public comment letters to: Muhammad Q. Zaman, Environmental Program Manager, Northcentral Region: Air Quality Program, 208 West Third Street, Williamsport, PA 17701, Tel.: 570-327-3648
Huncik is hoping that the Borough Council and local environmental organizations such as Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition will submit public comments pressuring DEP to hold a public hearing on the project.
For those who may have forgotten, the original Highlands neighborhood, Penn State/Columbia Gas pipeline fight in 2013 was about Penn State’s plans to put a 12″ gas transmission line from the East Campus Steam Plant, along Bellaire Ave., Prospect Ave. and South Burrowes St. to supply the West Campus Steam Plant’s conversion from coal to natural gas.
However, concerned citizens figured out pretty quickly that a 12″ line was way too much capacity for the volume needed to replace the tonnage of coal with an equivalent BTU of gas.
Then citizens figured out that that was because Penn State planned to first convert boilers from coal to natural gas, and then later install a Combustion Turbine/Heat Recovery Steam Generation (CT/HRSG) system.
A CT/HRSG system is much larger, burns much more gas, puts out more toxic emissions, more noise, more everything.
Under pressure from residents and Borough Council, Penn State trustees decided in 2013 to move the proposed transmission line onto campus, where it was installed several years ago. It now runs under University Drive, Park Avenue, Curtin Road and North Burrowes St.
One more level of corruption down, in 2013 and 2014, Penn State was lying to DEP, misrepresenting its’ then-current emissions, its’ projected emissions post-conversion, and its’ power plant expansion plans, to skew the baseline emissions data and circumvent regulations prohibiting “phasing” projects to understate long-term air quality impacts.
Now is the time for people to raise a ruckus to DEP about Penn State’s bad faith, demand a public hearing, and urge State College Borough Council to use the 2011 Community Bill of Rights home rule charter amendment “Section b. Right to Clean Air” to block Penn State’s expansion of the power plant downtown.
Readers who want more of the background about the pipeline, the gas volumes, the CT/HRSG, please contact me and I’ll dig through my archives to find you relevant reporting. Most of the relevant material is in the bound volumes Energy Sovereignty and Steady State College, published by KW Investigations in 2018.
Of note, DEP’s planned approval of the project outlined below is an example of ceiling preemption as covered in the Sept. 3, 2019 Bailiwick News. The DEP, a state agency, intends to force a municipal population to accept a level of toxic air quality deemed good-enough by the state agency, regardless of whether the municipal population would prefer to protect its’ own air quality to achieve a higher standard of public health…
UAJA sewage plant upgrade problems
Ongoing delays in the upgrades at the University Area Joint Authority sewage treatment plant have been done without proper mitigation, and the project has been spewing toxic emissions on residents downwind for many months.
Mark Huncik, a local independent air quality expert, pointed out the emissions problem and the lack of effective mitigation planning to UAJA officials well before the project started, and they ignored him.
The toxic emissions from the plant during the renovation have been horrible, and have been discussed at length at Nextdoor.com…
…As the message board threads make clear, dozens of residents have been filing complaints by telephone, online and in-person with UAJA, College Township Council and the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection since at least June, possibly earlier.
All three entities have been deflecting blame for the toxic emissions onto other entities or the project contractor, or ignoring the complaints completely.
Huncik believes DEP “should be more responsive to people’s complaints and come out. They should be requiring UAJA to do more. They can assess violations and fines if the facility is exceeding their allowable emissions (which they do every hour the biofilter is offline).”
It might be a good thing if more concerned citizens speak out on this issue publicly and put more pressure on DEP to hold UAJA accountable for the damage to public health and local air quality…