Perdue photo

This is a soybean-crushing plant owned by Perdue AgriBusiness in Cofield, N.C.

Two Lancaster County residents and a York County citizen have filed a legal challenge to the $60 million soybean-processing plant by Perdue Agri-Business in Conoy Township.

An appeal was filed Monday with the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board that challenges the state Department of Environmental Protection’s granting last month of an air-quality permit for the plant.

An appeal could take months to be resolved, but Perdue officials maintained confidence that they would be allowed to build the plant in time for a fall 2017 harvest.

The appeal was filed by Harrisburg environmental attorney William Cluck on behalf of Patty Longenecker of Elizabethown, Nick Bromer of Marietta and Annette Logan of York County. A citizens group, Citizens Against Perdue Pollution, supports the appeal, Cluck said.

The Environmental Hearing Board is a quasi-judicial body within the Department of Environmental Protection that hears appeals of final actions of the agency.

Cluck said the average period for the board to reach a decision is 18 months.

But, in a statement to LNP, Perdue said it was “confident in the strength of this permit application” and has resumed construction in Conoy Township “so farmers will be able to take advantage of the plant for their 2017 harvest.”

In response, Cluck said he would seek an injunction to have construction halted until the appeal had been decided.

After a nearly five-year review, the Department of Environmental Protection granted Salisbury, Maryland-based Perdue a hotly contested air-quality permit. It was the last step Perdue needed to build the plant adjacent to the county incinerator and the Susquehanna River.

The key issue has been air pollution from the plant, particularly emissions of hexane, a hazardous air pollutant and precursor of smog.

In its appeal, the residents claim the Department of Environmental Protection did not require, as they should have, the use of best-available technology to control hexane emissions.

Opponents had pressed Perdue to use a device known as a regenerative thermal oxidizer to further reduce hexane emissions. Perdue said the equipment posed a fire hazard.

In a second claim, the appeal says the department was wrong in determining that hexane emissions that would wander off the property was of minor significance.

Third, in an examination of harms and benefits, the state agency ruled not a single harm was considered significant.

“We think that was arbitrary,” Cluck said.

Fourth, the state agency and Perdue improperly withheld information that was ruled confidential, the appeal claims. That prohibited opponents from thoroughly reviewing pollutants and control technology the plant would use, Cluck said.

Officials at the state agency weren't immediately available for a comment.

The appeal will now be assigned to a law judge.

Perdue said it stood by the state agency’s review of its permit.

"We're confident in the strength of this permit application, which ensures we meet and exceed the most stringent environmental standards, and in the integrity of the review process, which included considerable public input over the course of six years to help us design one of the nation's most advanced soybean processing plants," said Gregory Rowe, a Perdue AgriBusiness vice president.

Perdue said the project will generate more than 150 construction jobs, 35 long-term jobs on completion and an anticipated 500 additional jobs in crop production and transportation.