Perdue soybean plant

Perdue soybean-processing plant under construction in Conoy Township on June 27, 2017.

The state is allowing Perdue Agribusiness to “offset” 174 tons of annual air pollution at its $59 million soybean-processing plant in Lancaster County by paying for emissions reductions at four industries elsewhere in Pennsylvania and New York.

The emissions from the plant nearing completion in Conoy Township would be up to 174 tons of volatile organic compounds, a precursor of smog.

Since the air in Lancaster County does not meet state and federal standards for smog, the company is not allowed to worsen the air here.

8 of 9 speakers at hearing critical of Perdue air pollution plan

Instead, the state Department of Environmental Protection allows industries to purchase what are called emission reduction credits from places where air pollution has been reduced.

That area includes facilities that have reduced pollution in Pennsylvania and neighboring states.

“It is important to note that while volatile organic compounds are considered to be ozone pollution precursors, the regional air quality is not expected to be negatively impacted by the operation of this plant,” said Joseph Adams, director of DEP’s southcentral region.

“After a thorough review, DEP has determined that this application meets Pennsylvania’s air quality regulations and the standards established by the Clean Air Act," Adams said.

“The use of these credits is part of the federal air emission requirements for this facility, which has the most stringent requirements of any similar facility in the country.”

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The Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority, which sold the property to Perdue and is providing them steam and water, said, “LCSWMA is pleased that Perdue received approval from DEP for the ERCs.  Together with Perdue, we look forward to a successful project that will deliver positive benefits to the community for decades to come.”

Perdue is offsetting the pollution here by buying credits from industrial facilities in Little Valley and Depew in New York, and Newville and Belleville in Pennsylvania.

A public hearing by DEP in Conoy Township in July on the pollution plan drew nine people, eight of whom were critical of the plan.

They expressed doubts that improving air well outside of Lancaster County would help the air quality here.

On Thursday, a local official who has been supportive of the project welcomed the approval.

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Conoy Township Supervisor Stephen Mohr reacted to the news by saying, “ It’s been seven years in the making for this project. I say let’s get it rolling and bring on the beans!”

Gregory Rowe,  Perdue vice president, said in a statement: “The federal offsets are in addition to environmental controls and advanced recovery technologies being installed at the plant, which is under construction and on target to begin operations in September before the fall harvest.

“Throughout this entire process, we have committed to ensuring this plant meets and exceeds the most stringent environmental standards. These offsets help to fulfill that commitment.”

The state has issued Perdue an air quality permit but it has been appealed by opponents to the plant to the Environmental Hearing Board.

That is the last challenge to the plant.

Perdue has nearly completed the plant next to the county waste-to-energy incinerator.