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State agency approves Penn State power plant conversion
By: Marc Stempka
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Department of Environmental Protection has approved an air quality plan for Penn State University to convert a campus power plant from steam to natural gas.
The university plans to convert the boilers in the West Campus plant from coal to natural gas, to meet Environmental Protection Agency requirements.
DEP North-Central Regional Director Marcus Kohl said the department did a careful review of the plan application during the past 15 months to be sure the project meets the best available technology (BAT) requirements and all federal and state air quality regulations.
In some areas, our plan approval application review exceeded state and federal requirements, Kohl said. We responded to more than 40 written comments received from the public.
The project includes construction of two natural gas boilers and modification of two existing coal boilers to use only natural gas. It also includes two 25,000-gallon above-ground oil tanks to store fuel oil for back-up use in the two new boilers.
There were months of debate over the future of the power plant. Dozens of State College residents were against the plan to convert the plant, mostly because of a proposed 12-inch natural gas line that will need to be constructed to bring gas to the power plant.
The original plan had the pipeline traveling through State College borough. After months of back-and-forth battles between the university, borough leaders and residents, Penn State developed a new route for the pipeline that will keep the line on campus, not running through the borough.
The DEP held a public hearing in State College in October, using the comments and testimony presented at that meeting, coupled with the written statements, as part of their review process.
The department determined the proposed emission levels of air contaminants satisfy their BAT requirements and new source review and prevention of significant deterioration requirements.
The draft of the proposed plan approvals were sent to the EPA for review, with the EPA also agreeing with the DEPs plan to issue the approval.
The State College planning commission voted 4-2 in November to approve the permits for the plant project.
Work on the pipeline portion of the project began in September. The entire project is expected to be completed by 2016, to meet federal guidelines.