Pennsylvania

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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.

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