Pennsylvania officials withdrew approval of a long-proposed 1,000-MW natural gas-fired powerplant near Pittsburgh after environmental groups pointed to deficient air quality standards stated in its approved permit and evidence that state-based developer Robinson Power Co. did not intend to build it.
The halt by the state Dept. of Environmental Protection of the Beech Hollow Energy Project on Sept. 29 follows the developer’s request to withdraw approval first granted in 2017 to site the facility in Robinson Township. A permit was reissued in 2020 following a turbine design change, but opponents appealed the move in June.
Engineer-CM Burns & McDonnell was retained by Robinson Power to provide environmental permitting services. The firm submitted the developer's application for a federal stormwater discharge permit, to include the two-unit combined-cycle natural gas-fired generation plant, potable water pipeline, a 15-mile, 500-kilovolt overhead electrical transmission line and electrical interconnect switchyard, and a 4.4-mile natural gas pipeline.
The environmental groups, Clean Air Council and Environmental Integrity Project, claimed the approvals had multiple deficiencies including “erroneous combustion turbine and facility wide emission limits for carbon monoxide, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds.” The appeal also noted approval despite high levels of pollution that construction and operation of the plant that would generate in an area “already heavily burdened by poor air quality.”
They also said that despite a small storage tank concrete pour, Robinson had not begun a continuous program of on-site construction required by October 2020 under its federal Clean Air Act permit.
Robinson Power executive Raymond Bologna told state officials in August that its permit was valid until March 28, 2022, bur opponents also cited other evidence of non-completion, terming the plant a "zombie" project.
“It is abundantly clear that Robinson Power formally abandoned the proposed project in the spring of 2021,” the environmental groups said, noting that the company told grid operator PJM Interconnection in April that it would not complete the project and that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission . approved cancellation of its interconnection service agreement in June. However, in August, Raymond Bologna, the developer said, “Robinson Power Company and the Department of Environmental Protection agree that the original permit is still valid through March 28, 2022.”
“Withdrawal from the PJM Interconnection process and having their escrow returned to them by the township, along with failure to construct, all strongly indicate that they do not intend to build a power plant here,” Lisa Widawsky Hallowell, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project, told ENR.
A spokesman for DEP said all permits and approvals for the project are terminated.
The company did not respond to a question of whether it would pursue another project at the site.