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Berks County gas-to-liquids plant gets preliminary approval

EmberClear project manager Jim Palumbo.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Jim Palumbo of EmberClear took questions about the project from an angry crowd

Supervisors in South Heidelberg Township, Berks County have given preliminary approval to a plant that would turn natural gas into liquid motor fuel.
The gas-to-liquids plant is among the first of several similar projects proposed around the state. The idea is to turn Pennsylvania’s cheap, abundant natural gas into more expensive liquid fuel.
The plant would cost between $800 million and $1 billion and produce about 500,000 gallons per day of gasoline and liquid petroleum.
Jim Palumbo is a project manager for EmberClear– the company seeking to develop the plant. He says it will create about 150 permanent jobs.
“We have an abundance of natural gas in the state and it makes all the sense in the world to use it in some fashion.”
The plant is planned for a 63-acre site about 10 miles west of Reading. It would be right next to Sunoco Logistics’ Sinking Spring facility, and Palumbo says the plan is for Sunoco to buy and store the gasoline produced at the plant.
Although the site is zoned for industrial uses, it’s adjacent to several residential developments. About 100 people packed the township meeting and were nearly unanimous in their opposition to the project.
Sal Franco, who lives near the site, worries the plant would be too close.
“My main concern is the safety and well-being of my family, my friends, everybody I grew up with in this area that is going to be affected by this situation.”
South Heidelberg Township supervisor Dennis Mulally says there is still plenty of time to address public concerns.
“This was just a preliminary hearing, and that’s all we voted on,” he says. “They have some legitimate questions, and we’ll go back and look at them.”
The plant still needs to go through further approval from the township, as well as state and federal agencies prior to construction, which could begin as early as mid-2015.

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