HOMER CITY —
In a rare show of unity, representatives of union workers and big business turned out Wednesday to urge the state Department of Environmental Protection with haste to approve a permit amendment to allow for a $700 million environmental upgrade at the EME Homer City power plant.
Unlike a late March meeting where 700 people turned out, many to express concerns over the planned upgrade to two of the plant’s three boiler systems, this most recent meeting at the Homer-Center Junior-Senior High School drew fewer than 100 people.
None of the 11 people testifying at the DEP scheduled hearing expressed opposition to the permit amendment and only one resident posed a question.
Homer City resident Maureen Vilcek questioned officials about plans to enlarge the ash-disposal area at the plant.
“We completely support the project, we just wanted to know how it was going to be enlarged,” Vilcek said following the hearing.
The plant employs 265 and estimates are that an additional 600 temporary jobs will be created by the project.
At issue is the power plant’s application to the DEP seeking approval to alter its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.
While the project likely will reduce the amount of treated water flowing into Blacklick Creek, permit revisions are necessary to allow for expansion of a coal combustion waste landfill, water-treatment facilities, and a cooling tower.
The plant, owned by California-based Edison International, is undertaking a massive pollution control upgrade in an effort to meet pending tougher Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
“It’s a huge plant and this is significant because it’s not often a company comes to us to say they’re going to spend several hundred million dollars,” said DEP spokesman John Poister.
Described as one of the biggest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the nation, Homer City, built in 1969, produces enough electricity to power 2 million homes.
The plant already has a dry scrubber on one of its three boilers meeting EPA regulations and will install wet scrubbers on the other two.
The new controls will reduce annual emissions of sulfur dioxides by 84 percent or 100,000 tons annually, mercury by 90 percent and soot by 57 percent.
Testifying Wednesday were representatives of coal producers Rosebud Mining of Kittanning and Amfire Mining of Latrobe, along with others that sell coal to the Homer City plant.
They urged DEP to act quickly to approve the permit changes in the hopes of avoiding any delays in the environmental upgrades.
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