Public Hearing Regarding Sunnyside Air Quality Permit Held

CURWENSVILLE – With one more permit to go, Sunnyside Ethanol LLC and the Department of Environmental Protection held a meeting with the public Wednesday night at Curwensville Middle School auditorium.

The meeting actually consisted of three components. The first was an overview by Sunnyside Ethanol of their air quality control plan. Sunnyside is working toward their air quality permit, the last permit they need before they can begin construction on their proposed ethanol plant in Curwensville at the former Howe’s Leather Company. 

Sunnyside plans to use 30 million bushels of corn a year to produce 88 million gallons of ethanol a year.

Dr. Rick DeCesar, director of environmental engineering at Sunnyside explained what processes and benchmarks Sunnyside’s air quality plan had to meet before the permitting process could begin. DeCesar explained during his presentation that Sunnyside will release less harmful air emissions than either the Shawville Power Plant or the boiler at Penn State University, University Park campus.

“We are not going to be in the same league as Shawville in air emissions,” said DeCesar.

DeCesar also pointed out that the plant’s main stack will be monitored continuously, and that periodic testings would done on various other parts of the plant to keep it in compliance. 

DEP representatives David W. Aldendorfer and Richard Maxwell then discussed how DEP reviews an air quality plan and the permitting process. 

Aldendorfer and Maxwell went over information that was available on paper to those in attendance. They explained that once the application for the air quality permit is received it is then reviewed by the DEP Air Quality program staff.

DEP looks at the production process and emissions controls to ensure that emissions are minimized. The emissions must meet the “lowest achievable emission rate,” which is actually a federal standard. That standard means that the Sunnyside emissions must meet the lowest rate of any similar emission sources in the nation. Looked at in particular are emissions that produce ozone and volatile organic compounds.

The new emissions must also meet best available technology standards for sulfur oxides, particulates, carbon monoxide and hazardous air pollutants.

Computer modeling must also be done demonstrate how the new emissions will not result in concentrations of the above-named emissions, and that those emissions will not significantly deteriorate air quality.

The plan is only approved if the applicant, in the case Sunnyside, meets those criteria. Then the air quality plan approval must be published in a newspaper and the Pennsylvania Bulletin, which opens a 30-day comment period to the public.

Questions were then taken from the public. These questions ranged from concerns over technology standards to storage tanks to possible typos in the plan in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Maxwell said he did not look at the bulletin, but when the numbers were given to him he said they were indeed correct.

A question was also posed as to when construction would begin once all of Sunnyside’s permits were in place.

Joe Cranston, president of engineering, operations and construction said that it would take an estimated 28 months to complete the construction of the plant. If the permit were granted mid-June, major construction would begin in mid-2008, according to Cranston.

“I think we’ve met all of the highest standards possible,” said Cranston later.

The third part of the evening, the public hearing, included testimony from Rep. Camille “Bud” George, D-74 of Houtzdale; Clearfield County Commissioner Rex Read Dan Hoover, mayor of Curwensville Borough; Fred Sopic, Curwensville Borough Council member and Tim Potts of the railroad company working with Sunnyside.

“We need jobs,” said George. “Curwensville has been hit harder with the loss of the tannery.

“Sunnyside has worked from the beginning to be a member of the community.”

George also testified that Sunnyside has worked with the public from the beginning and were working on their project “the right way.”

Read stated that the county commissioners were behind the project unanimously and wholeheartedly. He stated that Sunnyside has kept the commissioners up to speed on their project from the beginning. Read also said that development at any cost was not acceptable, and that Sunnyside was not doing that.

“Everybody knows this area is abundant with good workers,” said Hoover 

Sopic touched on how ethanol could help to reduce the country’s dependency on foreign petroleum.

“I think they’ll be a real asset to the community, and the community will be a real asset to them,” said Potts.

Read commented after the meeting that he liked the turnout. He felt that so few questions were asked because of how involved Sunnyside has been in educating the public on their project.

Carl Undercofler, Clearfield County resident and active environmentalist gave his comments on the meeting.

“I though it was great,” said Undercofler. “It appears that Sunnyside wants to do the right thing.”

The public has until May 14 to submit written questions and concerns to DEP regarding the air quality permit.

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