Perdue soybean plant

A new Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on the state's Environmental Rights Amendment was cited in an unsuccessful challenge to an air-quality permit issued by the state to the Perdue soybean-processing plant in Conoy Township.

A panel of five state judges has rejected a challenge to the state’s air-quality permit issued for the new Perdue Agribusiness soybean-processing plant now operating in northwestern Lancaster County.

After a seven-month review, the state Environmental Hearing Board determined that the $60 million plant’s uncaptured air emissions would not further worsen the area’s air pollution and that the state Department of Environmental Protection thoroughly checked for any impacts on health.

Two Lancaster County residents who live near the Conoy Township plant — Patty Longenecker of Elizabethtown and Nick Bromer of Marietta, along with York County resident Annette Logan — had challenged the permit given to Perdue in May 2016. The plant began operations last September.

A citizens’ group called Citizens Against Perdue Pollution has supported the challenge, while Conoy Township and the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority intervened on behalf of Perdue.

The residents sought to show that the department, in issuing the permit, would allow plant air pollution to harm local residents, did not adequately analyze the plant’s air pollution controls and mistakenly determined the plant’s benefits outweigh its environmental and social costs.

One focus of the challenge was that Perdue should have been forced to install an incinerator to capture emissions of hexane, classified as a hazardous air pollutant.

However, after testimony from experts on both sides, the judges ruled that the department was correct in determining that such equipment was not feasible technology for a soybean solvent extraction plant and, in fact, posed a risk of explosion or “runaway fire.”

The residents also challenged truck-traffic impacts on the community and Route 441. But the judges said the analysis, which found little impact, was not flawed.

Jim Warner, CEO of the waste authority, said he was "quite pleased" with the ruling.

"We were confident, all along, that the Department acted responsibly and appropriately in their review and issuance of Perdue's air permit.  This ruling reiterates what Perdue has stated all along — they have built the most technologically advanced and environmentally sound soybean processing facility in the country."