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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Citizens' fight brews in Westmoreland county

"(F)or residents surrounding the 400-acre parcel in Smithton, in South Huntingdon, Westmoreland County, where the 950-megawatt natural gas power plant would sit, this time the projections seem urgent and alarming. “It’s almost in our backyard. It is much, much too close,” Diane Bendix said. “We have a creek go through our yard. There’s a lot of wildlife here. God forbid if there’s an accident there.” Diane and Harvey Bendix bought their home in Smithton 18 years ago and have enjoyed the quiet, rural life there, Harvey Bendix said. He expects all of that will come to an end if the plant is built. I’m not opposed to progress in energy development. But for this to go into a community that is not designed for industrial, it’s ridiculous,” he said. “The homes were there first. Why should our homes, our lives, our livelihood be destroyed by this plant?” “I can’t tell you how afraid we are of this thing,” Mrs. Bendix said.
The couple and at least a handful of other residents and environmental groups were preparing to voice their concerns at today’s Westmoreland County commissioners’ meeting. Bill Catalina, whose property is closest to the proposed plant, said he believes the voters will speak if the plant goes through. “We don’t mind energy, and we don’t mind it in our area. But we mind it in our face,” Mr. Catalina said. He is concerned about water pollution from more than 1 million gallons of daily discharges that the plant would contribute to the Youghiogheny River each day, according to a Department of Environmental Protection permit application. But each person who opposes the project has a unique reason, he said. Some, like parents of students at the elementary and middle schools about a mile from the site, might worry about air pollution. Others, like a neighbor with horses, worries about the noise. Joseph Kalinowski , who has sued Tenaska, has lived in his house for 40 years and spent the past 20 turning most of his 120-acre parcel into a forest. Now, he says, the company will be using that forest as a buffer between the proposed plant and his home, less than half a mile away."