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Salem Twp. officials, residents hear proposed power plant details

SALEM TWP. — Residents and officials learned more Wednesday about a natural-gas-fired power plant that could be coming to their neighborhood next year.

Supervisors Steven Fraind, Joseph Siecko and Chairman Joshua Kishbaugh voted to approve conditional use for Vienna, Virginia-based Moxie Energy LLC to build an approximately $850 million plant that will produce an average of 950 megawatts of electricity — enough to power more than 800,000 homes — and employ up to 35 people in three shifts.

The total project site consists of 149 acres on Mingle Inn Road between Moskaluk Road and U.S. Route 11. The old residence housing Mingle Inn Antiques and a barn on the property will be razed.

Moxie Energy officials picked the site because the neighboring PPL Susquehanna Steam nuclear power plant has a high-voltage electricity transmission line system Moxie can send the power into once it is generated, and the Williams Companies’ Transco interstate natural gas pipeline is also nearby to supply Marcellus Shale gas.

The property is in an I-3 Special Industrial zone, in which power plants are allowed — the PPL facility has been there for decades — but first Moxie needs to go through the planning and zoning process to ensure the land is used in accordance with the zoning ordinance and other township regulations.

The company also has to get air-quality plan approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection, a highway occupancy permit from the state Department of Transportation, and, if they drill a well for industrial use, permission for water use from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

“We’re not done today. This journey has only started today,” said Donald Karpowich, attorney for Moxie Energy. “We will be going through the process for the next year.”

Moxie Energy president and CEO Aaron Samson said two other projects currently under construction are very similar to the proposed Moxie Freedom facility: The Moxie Liberty project in Asylum Township, Bradford County, and the Moxie Patriot project in Clinton Township, Lycoming County. Like the Moxie Freedom facility, both are located where there is access to Marcellus Shale gas and to electrical transmission capabilities.

While working on the other two projects, it “piqued our interest there was room for a third,” Samson said.

Related: Salem Twp. power plant clears first hurdle.

Power produced at the Salem Township facility will first be used locally, then regionally, then system-wide, according to the Moxie Energy website. Utility companies in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland will be able to purchase the electricity for their customers.

Samson said if Moxie Energy gets permission, the earliest start date for construction would be November 2015, with completion targeted for June 2018.

Moxie Freedom will have natural gas-powered combustion turbines, which Samson said is “very similar technology to an aircraft engine,” and the exhaust goes through a heat recovery boiler that generates additional energy and uses less water than traditional fossil-fueled plants.

Samson said water use at the site would amount to about 6,000 gallons a day, “Literally a garden hose amount of water.” By contrast, PPL has permission from the SRBC to withdraw up to 66 million gallons of water a day from the Susquehanna River for cooling its energy generating units.

Moxie Energy is exploring two options: The company is in discussion with a water company and is also drilling test wells, Samson said.

He said emissions from the plant are “extremely low,” and the company has an emergency response plan that has incorporated recommendations from the county.

Scott Boston, an expert in environmental noise pollution and control, said the noise level will increase, but because of the controls Moxie Energy puts in place — such as erecting earthen berms and putting the turbines inside a building — it will be limited.

“You probably won’t even know the power plant’s there,” he said. “It should not be objectionable.”

Alan Rosen, a real estate appraiser and attorney, said “No I don’t,” when asked if he believed the facility will have an effect on property values in the vicinity.

But not all residents were convinced.

Gary Sullivan said the experts who testified answered some of the residents’ questions, but there are still concerns.

“That’s absurd. Nobody wants to live next to a factory,” he said about the idea that property values won’t be affected.

Resident Chet Danowski said he felt the facility was being shoved down taxpayers’ throats.

“You’ve got enough businesses ruining this township. You’ve got pig farms and power plants all over the place,” he said.

Other residents such as Frede Fransen were worried about noise and the possibility of a well affecting neighbors’ water.

Kishbaugh said the supervisors toured a similar power plant and couldn’t hear any noise outside.

“There was no noise at the gate,” he said. “We went in the plant with earplugs. Had we taken those earplugs out, it wouldn’t have been any louder than your television.”