Elizabeth Township nixes zoning variance for gas-fired power plant

This location is near Buena Vista, PA, which is about 5 miles southeast of McKeesport, along the Youghiogheny River, and the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail.

"Elizabeth Township zoning officials on Tuesday said they would not allow a Chicago-based energy company to move forward with its proposal to build a natural gas-fired power plant on a patch of land zoned for residences.

The decision is a sharp rebuff to Invenergy, which first outlined its idea for a power plant to township commissioners last fall and then, in January, to township residents.

The proposal quickly became embroiled in a zoning debate this spring as the company sought a variance for the proposed site, which is part of a former industrial landfill contaminated by a misplacement of coal ash and demolition waste in the 1980s. Its history of pollution and its proximity to gas pipelines and transmission lines made the site ideal for Invenergy, company officials have said.

But it triggered emotional opposition from some residents who want the 600-acre property along the Youghiogheny River — of which the plant would take up 21 acres — to remain residential or undeveloped. The group Protect Elizabeth Township formed in January to help residents draft comments against the proposal. ..."

http://powersource.post-gazette.com/powersource/companies/2016/06/1...

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These people don't want clean energy?

Apparently they do. "Pollution" was the first concern listed by the Protect Elizabeth Township petition: "We the people do not want the pollution, sound, eyesore, and risks that come with a power plant in our residential neighborhood". On their facebook they cite hydro, solar, and other renewable alternatives: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ElizabethTwpAgainstFracking/

I've mention this before, but a friend who is highly placed at a major environmental group told me once (off the record) that he believes that the anti-gas groups are currently the biggest threat to controlling climate change. You could eliminate half of US CO2 emissions in a few years if you replaced all the coal fired power plants with natural gas. But thanks to folks like those in Elizabeth Township, that will never happen and things will just get worse. I asked why his group didn't tell people that sad truth, and he said "Two words - Wilderness Society". When they came out a few years back in favor of natural gas as the best short-term option we have for fighting global warming, they lost all their funding from members who don't understand how the energy markets work and don't understand the economic and environmental trade-offs involved. I find it so sad to watch well-intentioned people (and I assume you're in that camp) doing things that are actually hurting the environment you claim to want to help. As Walt Kelly, the author of Pogo once said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us".

But CO2 is just one of the greenhouse gases. Methane, the principal component of natural gas, is an even more potent (30-80 times more than CO2) greenhouse gas, so it is even worse for global warming. Unfortunately, when wells are drilled, fracked, and pipelines, tank cars, compressor stations are in use, a lot of methane leaks, and it's a big problem.

There's a scientific debate over which is worse for global warming: coal or gas.

See http://gomarcellusshale.com/forum/topics/regulating-methane-which-i...

I was a consultant on several papers related to the coal v. gas debate, so that's a topic I know well. There isn't really any true academic debate - the only serious paper that claimed coal was better was funded by the Park Foundation, and I've been told that they let everyone know in advance what conclusion they wanted/needed for their lobbying efforts here in New York. That work has been completely debunked by many others, including a team of their peers at Cornell. But the outsized impact that the original paper had on the debate continues as the Park Foundation got it far more press than anyone gave the rebuttals. Roy Park made his money in media, by the way - they know how to play the PR game better than the average academic.

Also, it's worth remembering that methane drops out of the atmosphere quickly, so any problems that it causes while replacing coal in the near to medium term would be comparitively short-lived. CO2 stays up there for centuries, and while it is less potent than methane the volumes are so much larger that it outweighs methane's extra potency completely. And while CO2 emissions are almost all man-made, the majority of methane emissions are either naturally occurring or the result of farming activities, neither of which can be controlled. Going after methane before CO2 is a dead-end pursuit. Our problems can't be solved that way even if you want to believe the Park Foundation. They just wanted to stop drilling in New York, and sadly they've accomplished that at the cost of misdirecting our efforts to combat global warming.

If coal is still producing a significant share of our electricity in 2019, we will have no one to blame but ourselves. Because that could have been avoided with no cost to the economy and great benefit to the environment.

Jack said "methane drops out of the atmosphere quickly". Not quickly enough. It takes decades. And with global warming ramping up dramatically before most countries have started taking it seriously, and before we have (possible) technological solutions, these are critical decades. These are the decades during which the flooding of Miami, Bangladesh, China, Japan, etc will likely get serious and the ensuing flood refugee and crop shortage problems begin.

Don't you understand - methane emissions from the natural gas industry, even adjusting for the potency of the gas and ignoring how quickly it drops out of the atmosphere, are rounding error compared to CO2. (Coal mining and oil wells between them generate larger methane emissions than natural gas wells - remember, methane is what kills the canaries in coal mines.) And methane drops out of the atmosphere in a few decades, while CO2 lasts for centuries. Why not just read the various papers on the topic and then this argument can end with you backing off and refocusing your efforts on a subtopic where you have a chance of being at least partially right. The gas v. coal debate is an absolute loser, and no thinking person would take coal's side. If you won't do the research and admit you're wrong on this one, you really should stop posting.

Sorry, Jack, repeating your message "methane drops off in a few decades" while ignoring mine "these decades matter; Bangladesh could flood during these decades" isn't convincing.

Here are a few newspaper headlines from a variety of sources that contradict your "move along, there's no issue here" contention:

Methane Leaks May Greatly Exceed Estimates, Report Says

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/05/science/methane-leaks-may-greatly...

Methane leaks across US pose a much greater threat than Aliso Canyon

http://www.theguardian.com/vital-signs/2016/mar/02/methane-leaks-al...

Methane emissions are extremely harmful, and the government might not know how much there is

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/06/0...

As you can see, the trend in methane news is not "methane levels are a small issue", it is "wow, these methane leaks are a lot worse than we thought".

None of the stories you cite say anything about the basic science on this issue or support the idea that CO2 is less important than methane in controlling global warming. (Which is why a shift from coal to gas power production would be beneficial overall despite any methane leaks associated with that change.) You really are crossing into nutcase territory when you assert that methane leaks from the gas business justify halting a switch from coal to gas given the enormous amount of CO2 being emitted by coal-fired power plants and that the majority of atmospheric methane comes from sources having nothing to do with gas production.

But it's still useful to see you take that position, as we now know that your real issue isn't global warming or anything that impact Bangladesh, but your own dislike for natural gas drilling and production. (An industry which you seem happy to attack even if the result of adopting your proposals would be to accelerate climate change and heavily damage the world economy at the same time.)

I'll ask you one last time - please read some of the rebuttals of the Howarth etal "coal is cleaner than natural gas" article, and then decide whether you really want to help slow global warming or just upset the folks on this website by posting anything negative (biased or not) that you find which seems to criticize natural gas. Until you do, people like me are either going to ignore you (which I suspect you would really dislike) or point out your errors.

I've had 33 years of running a land conservancy and being an involved environmentalist, and have to admit that nothing bothers me more than "pretend" environmentalists who aren't willing to educate themselves. Sadly, you seem to fall into that camp.

Which brings us back to where this discussion started, and my friend's comment that "anti-gas groups are currently the biggest threat to controlling climate change". That and self-centered NIMBYs like the ones in Elizabeth Township who hide behind a self-serving environmentalist façade. You need to decide if you really want to stand on that side of a truly momentous issue. Right now you are on the wrong side of both science and history.

That's all from me.

Paul,

During the "Middle Ages" temperatures on our planet were higher than today. Yet there was no apocalyptic flooding of coastal areas. It won't happen if temperatures rise again.

By the way man caused global warming is a myth.

In fact our planet is going through a "global cooling" period. There will be no flooding from melting ice caps.

Finally, since 1990 natural gas production has increased 53%, while during the same period fugitive methane emissions associated with oil and gas facilities has declined almost 15%.

Paul,

I contend that a little global warming would be good for the planet.

The rise in temperature would allow more farming in places such as Greenland and the Scandinavian countries, parts of Russia, etc.

There use to be farms in Greenland.

More food production world wide would be a good thing

Paul.

This just more fear mongering.

As development, production and use of natural gas has increased, the occurrence of "fugitive" methane (leaks) has decreased' and will continue to decrease.

Methane leaks is a non issue and only those engaged in fear mongering use it.

There is no proof that there will be mass flooding of coastal areas around the world. Again, just a fear mongering issue. There is no proof. So there will be no "flood refugees".

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