Billion-Dollar Power Plant TakeDown By Two Grandmothers

On Friday, April 14th in a joint statement, The Clean Air Council, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), and the Center for Biological Diversity, and Bechtel Corp. said it would not proceed with a multi-million dollar natural-gas fired, electric generating station in the old Renovo Rail site in Renovo Borough.

Pic: Maureen Ruhl
Pic: Maureen Ruhl

Maureen A. Ruhl was the key player in the demise of the proposed billion-dollar natural gas-to-electricity power plant. Ruhl proclaimed she wasn’t against the power plant itself, but the location which was anticipated to be less than a football field away from the residents’ homes.

Although Ruhl faced intense criticism and had her life threatened, she refused to back down. She read through thousands of pages of documents, records, reports, and e-mails. She spent hundreds of hours researching. Through her research, Ruhl uncovered the power plant was a desperate, last chance, to pay back investors.

Sue Cannon, a native of Renovo, also spoke out against the proposed power plant.

Along the beautiful scenic Susquehanna River in Renovo Pennsylvania, the fight continues to stop the Bechtel Corporation and their plans to construct a new $1.5 billion gas-powered plant in the center of town, resulting in each home in the tiny community to be less than one football field away from the polluting facility.

site of proposed billion dollar power plant in renovo
Site of proposed billion-dollar power plant in Renovo. Image c/o author.

Thanks to a small group of activists voicing their concerns, the Clinton County Commissioners and the Bechtel Corporation are more than happy to give a dog a bone. In this case, Renovo is the dog.

Renovo would receive a one-time payment to be divided among the borough and several organizations in the community. Although the Clinton County Commissioners turned down the gas-powered plant for the Lock Haven area, where they are based, the commissioners have Renovo Borough Council believing it will create hundreds of jobs and thousands of dollars in annual tax revenue which is not the case.

Billion-Dollar Power Plant Pollution

One thing Renovo is guaranteed to receive is Renovo Energy Center will be one of the most polluting facilities in the Commonwealth. “The facility would emit over 200 tons of particulate matter every year, along with over 300 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx), and over 100 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Particulate matter from fossil fuel combustion and NOx gases can cause and aggravate lung ailments. VOCs are implicated in liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage, eye, nose, and throat irritation, and other neurological problems.”

The project wasn’t wanted in Lock Haven because of all the toxins, pollution, and no job security but it’s good enough for little old Renovo. The facts are a flawed public participation process, the creation of air pollution that exceeds permitting standard thresholds, there is no commitment to local hiring, the air pollution control technology below what is required by the Clean Air Act, there is adequate consideration of greenhouse gas emissions in the plant’s design and misrepresentation of the efficacy of solar and wind power in DEP’s alternatives analysis.

The Clinton County Commissioners, State Representative Stephanie Borowicz, and other public officials tricked people into believing it was going to be good for Renovo. You would think Renovo would get tired of being a red-headed stepchild of the county. For generations, Renovo continues to get Lock Haven’s hand-me-downs. From the people I spoke with the only thing Renovo got after years of begging, pleading and fighting was an upgrade to Renovo Elementry School and Bucktail Area Junior/Senior High School thanks to one Keystone Central School District Board Member that refused to take no for an answer. One that should have been done years ago after allegedly finding black mold in the elementary school after a majority of teachers contracted cancer.

Conflicts of Interest and Mismanagement

Do you realize your elected official Renovo Borough Council President Ann Tarantella signed away anything Renovo had coming for a one-time payment of $150,000? Renovo Borough did NO research of their own and they never voted on the power plant coming to Renovo. They let the experts, the County Commissioners, do the thinking for them. The concept could be great but the location plain right out sucks. Why not just change the location?

I was told by a source, one of the County Commissioners will benefit himself by selling the land for the construction of the power plant. Conflict of interest? Selling an idea to the community to make money? Isn’t that illegal but it’s happening and it’s happening right before your very eyes and sadly you are sitting there believing their main concern is helping Renovo get back on its feet. While you put up with the lies, noise, pollution, no jobs, and health factors and the town remains in poverty, they will sit back and collect off your heartache.

Let’s not forget if the property sells the investors will get a few pennies off the dollar that they lost. Renovo’s finest, the investors, need that money back to keep up with their prestige image but the investors hid thinking their identity was private. I have done my homework. I know who they are!!

Bad Deal For The Community

The power plant was set to make a million dollars a day. Renovo would get to share $150,000, investors would collect their pennies, and local property owners would pay more yearly in property taxes than the power plant because of the taxable allowances. The money is not there. The jobs are not there. The health and risk factors are there, and the County Commissioners are being gracious enough to deliver it to Renovo on a silver platter.

It went from 350 jobs to 25 jobs, but did anyone research the job descriptions or qualifications for the jobs?

Although Dominion has several highly qualified men and women on their team who have the proper experience to do the job safely to the best of their ability, let’s review the ones that are hired by who they know and good old fashion ass-kissing. The men and women hired under the good old boys club have little to no job experience and place the company in a position of being compromised. One mistake could cost their coworkers and the whole community their lives. So the odds of anyone locally getting hired at the power plant are grim. Military experience and a degree are required. Renovo only has a small percentage of people achieving college degrees so a kid out of high school has no chance.

Another misconception the community is being fed.

No one has even asked if the local volunteer fire companies and the hospital are equipped and certified if there is a situation. Let’s be honest. They have absolutely no training and no experience in chemicals of this degree.

Have they even thought about what is buried in those 50-gallon barrels in that ground across the tracks and how many people in Renovo are dying from cancer? The community knows this but once again they will turn a blind eye. But just imagine an incident occurs, and it’s a local wife, mother, father, husband, sibling, aunt, uncle, or child that is compromised. So one councilman’s son can walk to work, while nearby residents may be burying theirs.

The power plant would make one hell of a backdrop for the Flaming Foliage Festival? The queens ride in their cars, breathing in toxic fumes, coughing, and gasping for air while covering their ears from the continuous hum and their eyes from the bright lights. I can just see the pictures on the front page of the newspaper now. Oh, that’s right. That too will be hidden. Renovo’s head buried in the sand. It’s just one more reason for the Pennsylvania State Festival to move to Lock Haven. Haven’t they been wanting to take it from Renovo for years?

What I can’t figure out is no one is asking the tough questions or doing the research. Renovo likes keeping its head in the sand. They never want to be held accountable for their actions or take responsibility for their mistakes.

Renovo has more than enough problems with the current drug crisis.

Renovo can’t even get residents to pay their water and sewage bills. If they didn’t have residents owing tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid bills and they enforced these bills to be paid instead of making threats of posting people’s names in the newspaper that are a quarter behind but collect on their outstanding debts. They would not have money issues. It’s all threats and no course of action is taken but they will continue to bill, harass and threaten the people they condemned from their homes on 14th street for water/sewage services at homes they are forbidden to live in.

The county has a grant writer. Why aren’t they allowing her to write grants to put something at the former Renovo Rail site that will benefit the community? A college, a community center, an arts center, a theme park, or ANYTHING besides a power plant. There was even talk of a grant for a Micro Brewery but nothing ever became of it. Just another empty building that will eventually be torn down and cost the borough more money that they don’t have.

It’s hard to believe Renovo Borough Council has its head so deep in the sand that it is willing to sell out its community taking advice from ‘the experts’ that could care less that they are willing to destroy a town by pushing a billion-dollar power plant in the center of it.

Donna M. Kshir

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Donna M. Kshir is an Author, Publisher, Activist, Podcaster, and Columnist featured in over 50 books. She is a writer who seeks truth and justice for children exposed to abuse. She speaks out and writes against these injustices done onto children. Donna’s work has landed her on Barnes and Noble, and Amazon’s bestsellers list multiple times. Her August 2022 release, You Are Enough, with Lee Cougardawn Roberts was the 25thx she hit Amazon’s best sellers list in multiple categories.

Donna writes under several pen names and advocates for those in need. She has spent much of her life dedicated to giving back to her community. Donna has volunteered her time and talents with various non-profit organizations over her lifetime, animal rights, volunteered at her children’s schools, in youth groups, and gives of herself as she is able with God guiding her journey. She enjoys a quiet laid-back lifestyle with her husband, children and grandchildren!