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Public will have say on Pa. ethanol plant

March 10, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The boards of supervisors for Greene and Letterkenny townships will hold a joint public information meeting later this month to allow residents to ask questions about a proposal to build an ethanol plant in the Cumberland Valley Business Park.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 29, in the Greene Township Municipal Building, according to Charles D. Jamison Jr., chairman of the Greene Township Board of Supervisors.

Jamison said Wednesday that residents of both townships will be able to submit written questions to township officials and Penn-Mar Ethanol, the York, Pa., partnership that is backing the $80 million project.

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Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection officials also will be invited to answer questions, he said.

Jamison said questions will be taken only from residents of the townships.

"We're not going to open this up all over the place. That could go on for days," he said.

Jamison expects a second public meeting will be held concerning the plant, which would produce 60 millions gallons of the fuel additive a year from corn. Penn-Mar could submit its land development plan before the meeting date, Jamison said.

The project has prompted opposition, including hundreds of letters from area residents to the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority asking its board to terminate a $2.24 million sales agreement on a 55-acre parcel.

"We can't do anything to jeopardize keeping Letterkenny Army Depot open," said Paul B. Ambrose, a former Greene Township supervisor who spoke against the plant at Monday's LIDA meeting. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission will soon recommend closing a number of military installations and "I don't think we'll be helped by having an ethanol plant here," he said Wednesday.

An accident at the plant could adversely affect missile maintenance and other depot activities, Ambrose said. He said his concerns were not eased by a visit LIDA representatives made to a Wisconsin ethanol plant.

"The plant in Wisconsin is similar, but not identical and that's not a valid comparison," Ambrose said. LIDA should have visited one using the same technology and built by the same contractor Penn-Mar intends to use, he said.

The authority board of directors voted to terminate the sales agreement with Penn-Mar Ethanol, but only to allow the inclusion of an amendment stating the plant will use the best available pollution-control technology. Authority Executive Director John Van Horn said Wednesday the change has been made and both parties have signed off on the agreement.

Penn-Mar has 150 days from Feb. 7 to get all the necessary land development and environmental approvals before the sale is finalized, Van Horn said. Penn-Mar could, if needed, ask for an extension, but would have to pay LIDA $20,000 to keep the land off the market for another five months, he said.

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