Energy. Environment. Economy.

Citizens group opposes Berks County gas-to-liquids plant

State Rep. Jim Cox (R- Berks) spoke to about 300 people who attended a meeting to oppose the GTL plant.

Marie Cusick/StateImpact Pennsylvania

State Rep. Jim Cox (R- Berks) spoke to about 300 people who attended a meeting to oppose the GTL plant.

A citizens group has formed in opposition to a proposed gas-to-liquids plant in South Heidelberg Township, Berks County.

Last night nearly 300 people attended a meeting held by the newly-formed South Heidelberg Community Association. The group’s online petition against the plant has received over 1,000 signatures.

“We’re not going to win this overnight,” says one of the group’s organizers, Steve Wolszczenski. “It’s going to take diligence from our community to convince them to go somewhere else.”

The idea behind the gas-to-liquids (GLT) plant is to transform Pennsylvania’s cheap, abundant natural gas into more expensive motor fuel. The facility would cost between $800 million and $1 billion and produce about 500,000 gallons per day of gasoline and liquid petroleum. It would create about 150 permanent jobs.

If built, it would be among the first facilities of its kind in the country. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration there are currently five GTL plants operating in the world, and none in the United States.

It’s planned for a 63-acre site about 10 miles west of Reading. The site is right next to Sunoco Logistics’ Sinking Spring facility. A spokesman for EmberClear, the Canadian-based developer seeking to built the plant, says the plan would be for Sunoco to buy and store the gasoline produced at the plant.

The site is zoned for light industrial uses, and it’s adjacent to several residential developments. Neighbors say they were unaware such a facility could be constructed near their homes.

Jennifer Bryne owns a day-care next to the site and helped organize the opposition group.

“I thought there’s no way they’d put that there,” she says. “We have all these children here, there’s homes all around. My biggest concern with this is air and water pollution.”

Representative Jim Cox (R- Berks) told the group he’s trying to organize a townhall meeting with EmberClear, representatives from the state Department of Environmental Protection, and other government officials.

“Now is the time to stay engaged. This is your community,” Cox told the group. “I will do everything I can to assist you in getting the information you’re seeking.”

The township will vote on whether to give final approval to EmberClear’s site plan on May 6th. The proposal is still in its preliminary stages and the project faces a number of other state and federal regulatory hurdles.

This project is one of two GTL plant proposals with permit applications under review at the state Department of Environmental Protection. The other is in Altoona, Blair County.



  • Mary

    The Pennsylvania politicians should be ashamed of themselves for standing by and watching a canadian company place a refinery next to a day care and 300 taxpayer homes. How can 500,000 gallons of gasoline production a day; plus tons of propane and liquid gas production; be considered “light industrial” by anyone? Why are the politicians ramming this through via the Berks County “Joint Express Approval Program”? None of these plant exist in america and here in Pennsylvania, we are reducing the number of permits so it can be quickly (and probably cheaply) placed next to a daycaer & 300 homes? Glad I don’t live next to that accident waiting to happen!

  • CleanEnergy

    I suppose Sunoco should probably move the Montello terminal as well. How dare they locate that so close to a child care facility? On second thought, who was there first? If someone is irresponsible, who is it? Why did all those homeowners decide to build their homes so close to a huge liquid fuels terminal? Reasonable residents and taxpayers should recognize the huge opportunity this represents for Berks County. This could put us on the map as a strategic player in WORLD energy! Let’s not let a few loud-mouthed NIMBYs ruin this tremendous opportunity.

    • NOGTL

      @Clean Energy – I think it’s fair to review the environmental impact on the surrounding area prior to assuming this is a “huge opportunity.” This information is not posted for debate or discussion. Unless you are an expert on GTL processes and toxins, please don’t embarrass yourself any further.

      Under The Right To Know PA laws, the community will continue to be loud until all questions are answered regarding the hazards to our water supply, air, and overall environment.

      In the meantime, here is a tremendous opportunity for you:
      Come buy a house at GTL “Ground Zero” and show Berks County what a “reasonable tax payer” looks like. We will even lay out the red carpet for you.

      Yours truly…

    • Smith_comma_John

      So after 6 months of pumping out pro-industry comments [just click on CleanEnergy's username link, above] regarding *Luzerne* County, now you are sticking your nose into Berks?! What, did you just move here?! If not, you have a lot of nerve using the term “us”. You’re not “us”. Talk about living in glass houses, heh. I’m calling shenanigans on you. :-P

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »