A 2006 local conditional use permit granted to Robinson Power Company, LLC (RPC) for the proposed construction of a 272-megawatt waste coal power plant was struck down by a unanimous vote by the Robinson Township Board of Supervisors of Washington County, PA. In its place, the Board approved a new conditional use permit that reflects the concerns of nearby residents and environmental groups EIP and the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at the Vermont Law School over the impacts to air and water quality known to be associated with power plants. Instead of the original waste coal power plant proposed, RPC is instead seeking to build one 150-MW natural gas plant and one 150-MW waste coal plant, neither of which has received final approval from the Board.
Although the Board granted RPC a new conditional use permit for the new project, it attached 55 conditions to its approval and retained the authority to revoke the permit if RPC were to violate any of a number of the conditions. Among those conditions were that, for the first time, the Board is requiring quarterly air pollution monitoring for six dangerous air pollutants at the fenceline of the property, meaning the air pollution travelling into the community will be monitored. The Board is also requiring additional groundwater sampling of potentially impacted areas, which will allow the community to identify if the site’s activities are threatening public health through drinking water.
The decision comes after months of hearings on RPC’s application to modify the 2006 permit to add natural gas as a fuel source for the power plant. Working together, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), local community group Residents Against the Power Plant (RAPP) and the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic (ENRLC) from the Vermont Law School, challenged RPC’s application. They argued RPC was in fact proposing an entirely new project that required the Board to take a fresh look. The groups also presented the Board with documents showing decades of violations at the 600-acre waste coal site where RPC proposed burying coal ash from the power plant, including a recent release of contaminated sediment that fouled a creek more than half a mile downstream from where the facility is permitted to discharge treated wastewater.