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Pa. board asks for pollution promises

March 08, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - A $2.24 million sales agreement for the site of a proposed ethanol plant in Franklin County moved a step closer to being finalized Monday, although the board of directors of the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority asked for written assurances from Penn-Mar Ethanol that it will use state-of-the-art pollution control technology.

The board voted 7-5 to terminate the sale agreement with the York, Pa., group backing the ethanol plant, but only so the language can be amended to state Penn-Mar will use the "best available control technology."

Penn-Mar Ethanol, a group of Pennsylvania and Maryland investors, has 15 days to amend the agreement, LIDA Executive Director John Van Horn said.

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About 20 people, including opponents of and investors in the ethanol plant, attended the meeting. Last month, LIDA announced the pending sales agreement with Penn-Mar, which said it plans to invest $80 million in a plant that will produce 60 million gallons of alcohol a year as a fuel additive.

"I have almost 500 people who, within a week, have come forward ... and asked LIDA to terminate this agreement," said DeEtta Antoun, the director of Citizens for a Quality Environment, a group opposing the plant. Signed letters from opponents were presented to the board.

"I haven't heard anybody tell me how the risk of this plant is going to improve the quality of life," said Frederic G. Antoun Jr., the group's attorney. He said the board will open itself to possible litigation if it approves the sale of the 55-acre parcel in the Cumberland Valley Business Park, land that once was part of Letterkenny Army Depot.

"Municipal approvals and DEP (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection) do not create a safety net for you," he told the board. The Greene Township Board of Supervisors would be committing "political suicide" if it approves the project, Antoun said.

Other opponents raised objections about air pollution and the risk of fire or explosion. Former Greene Township Supervisor Paul Ambrose said the plant could negatively affect the depot in this year's Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations.

The debate among the board members was not about terminating the agreement, but about the additional language.

"I think it's implicit in the agreement we already have," Director Tim Rockwell said.

"We don't have any problem with it. We have every intention to be in compliance," said Scott Welsh, the project manager for Penn-Mar Ethanol. He said the plant will have thermal oxidizers to reduce plant emissions, technology unavailable in earlier plants.

Van Horn said LIDA is responsible for selling the land, not enforcing environmental regulations. Solicitor Mike Davis said that will be the responsibility of state and federal regulators.

The plant would use approximately 20 million bushels of corn, most of it from the Midwest, to produce the ethanol and byproducts, including 125,000 tons of carbon dioxide for food processors and 192,000 tons of distiller's grain, a livestock feed.

Dan Wolf, chairman of Penn-Mar, objected to one critic likening the plant to an oil refinery.

"We're a distiller," he said. "We cook corn mash."

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