Agreement reached regarding Rockland power plant
The Derrick, 8/28/01
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REPRESENTATIVES OF A CITIZENS GROUP AND THE ENERGY COMPANY HAMMERED OUT THE SETTLEMENT.
An agreement has been reached in a legal dispute over development of a gas-fired electric generation plant in Rockland Township.
The agreement between Handsome Lake Energy, the plant developer, and Save Our Sanctuary, a citizens group, was announced in a news release.
Save Our Sanctuary was formed to battle the company's plans, arguing the facility would spread pollution and soil the community's quality of life. It challenged the plant's permits and fought construction.
Both sides have battled in Venango County Common Pleas Court and in the court of public option.
Under the terms of the agreement, an air quality permit appeal before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board and a land development appeal before Venango County Court will be withdrawn.
Addressing concerns expressed by Save Our Sanctuary and the Rockland Township supervisors, Handsome Lake has agreed to revise its groundwater impact avoidance and mitigation plan. It also will retain Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc. (CEC) as an independent hydrogeologic consultant to oversee groundwater monitoring activities and to investigate complaints of the potential impact on neighboring wells and water supplies.
If the consultant determines there has been a significant impact on the quality or quantity of neighboring private water supplies, Handsome Lake has pledged to provide an alternative supply, financial compensation to the affected property owner or resident, or other measures.
Features of the plan include:
A procedure for residents to submit complaints for investigation and review
A procedure for impacted property owners to legally enforce the plan
Annual published reporting by the consultant of groundwater monitoring results
Handsome Lake also has agreed to establish a community trust fund with a donation of $110,000 to a trust for use in mitigation and community improvement projects.
The trust will be administered by a three-member board of administrators - one selected by Save Our Sanctuary, one appointed by the township supervisors and a third member selected from the area.
During the first year, trust fund use will be limited to providing mitigation projects for residents living near the project. After the first year, the funds also may be used for broader based, community projects.
Handsome Lake also has agreed to work with a community advisory committee. The committee, representing a cross-section of the community, will participate in semi-annual meetings with Handsome Lake representatives to discuss issues of concern and complaints.
Steven Morris, vice president of Handsome Lake, said:
"We are pleased that through dialogue with project opponents and with the support of the Rockland Township supervisors, we have turned from the path of conflict to a plan that will truly provide positive dividends for the community at large.
"It has been our intention throughout the development process to be a good neighbor, and the agreements reached today underscore that commitment."
Ron Himes, the first president of Save Our Sanctuary, and Jack Walker, the current president, participated directly in settlement negotiations.
"Through these negotiations SOS and Handsome Lake were able to reach a compromise that addresses the interests of Handsome Lake in providing an adequate supply of electrical power while at the same time protecting the interests of nearby residents and the community water supply," Himes said.
Walker noted that Save Our Sanctuary "remains committed to protecting the interests of Rockland Township citizens and this settlement will play an important role in fulfilling that commitment as the project begins to operate."
Copies of the Impact Avoidance and Mitigation Plan, which explains the procedures for submitting complaints and enforcing the plan, are available to the public at the Rockland Township building.