Controversial Book About Renovo Hits #99

If you were to ask Renovo local activist and author Maureen Ruhl what her favorite number is, she’d likely say #99. On Sunday, April 3, Ruhl woke up to the news her book, ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ hit #99 on Amazon’s Mid Atlantic U.S. Biographies bestsellers list.

‘Smoke and Mirrors’ has been a controversial topic in Clinton County, but that hasn’t stopped Ruhl.

Controversial Book About Renovo Hits #99 1

She initially stood undecided on the topic but while running for Renovo Borough Council she was approached by concerned citizens who feared the Bechtel Corporation placing a power plant in the center of town. After giving it a lot of thought, she decided to do some research of her own by visiting other small towns; Shamokin Dam, Montgomery, and Jessup, Pennsylvania that were centered around power plants.

Her discovery was grotesque. She did not anticipate the number of people, young and old, in those towns that were suffering from long-term health issues from the power plants. Joseph Otis Minott, a contributor to the Pennsylvania Capital Star, confirmed Ruhl’s finding, “the Renovo Energy Center would emit over 200 tons of particulate matter, over 300 tons of nitrogen oxides and more than 100 tons of volatile organic compounds each year. These emissions would create smog, which can cause serious lung issues and expose residents to probable human carcinogens like formaldehyde.”

With the facts in hand, Ruhl now had her eyes wide open to the potential long-term health issues area residents could face if the Bechtel Corporation moved forward with its plans. This new information raised red flags for Ruhl so she dug even deeper. She uncovered these power plants moving into small despairing towns and making promises of bringing prosperity, but it became very clear, very quickly that the power plant would only bring prosperity to a handful of people in the community.

Mike Flanagan, President/CEO of the Clinton County Economic Partnership, proposed the question “And if we don’t get a power plant in Renovo, what does or doesn’t come in the future to the old railyards across the tracks?”

renovo smoke and mirrors
Smoke and Mirrors in Renovo.

Ruhl says the entire situation reeks of desperation. She sees the sale of the old railyards as one last attempt for the landowners to sell the property and the 49 investors to recuperate part of their lost revenue from a bad business investment with Renovo Rail. She believes the power plant promises are distortions of truth based on federal minimum requirements, tax revenue, job security, noise, and pollution all to mislead the community.

Healthy Renovo Community

“After the brownfield buried, toxic contaminants are removed and the land restored to its pristine beauty, then we can build upon it! Renovo residents deserve a healthy community! Tourism goals are currently in conflict with land mismanagement and get-rich-quick schemes. The Renovo Borough Council hastily signed an inadequate monetary agreement. They never invited the public to voice concerns or offer ideas. We are served by a centric few who believe they alone know best. In reality, with more diversity on Renovo Borough Council, many thoughtful ideas would be brought forward. The potential is wide open, not an end of the opportunity, as they claim,” Ruhl said.

The activist has several suggestions for the old railyard that would greatly benefit the people of Renovo if the Clinton County Economic Partnership, Renovo Borough Council, and other ‘strong supporters’ would take the time to hear her and other concerned citizens out. She believes that particular people pushing for the estimated $850 million project have a bigger stake in the plant coming to town than the average citizen of Renovo. One could suggest a conflict of interest? Perhaps.

The author has endured several attacks by the pro-power plant followers and by biased parties, but that has not stopped her from being vocal on the subject. Book two of the three-part series is expected to be released in late spring or early summer, and it has been suggested the book is expected to be more in-depth.

Maureen Ruhl is a former banker and businesswoman from Lebanon County, Pennsylvania but relocated to the Renovo area 17 years ago after she and her husband, John Jr., retired. Smoke and Mirrors is available in paperback and ebook formats at,, and other fine online and brick-and-mortar stores.