Waste Industry and Allentown Residents for Clean Air File Challenges to Delta Thermo Incinerator Permits


ALLENTOWN – The Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association (PWIA) and members of Allentown Residents for Clean Air (ARCA) filed separate appeals, challenging the permits granted last month to Delta Thermo Energy A, LLC (DTE).  An air pollution permit and a waste management permit were both issued to DTE by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association, representing operators of landfills and incinerators throughout the state, challenged only the air permit, while ARCA members challenged both the air and waste permits.

PWIA’s appeal centers on some of the issues they raised in comments last year highly critical of the air and waste permits.  The appeal argues that “Delta Thermo’s Incinerator” is indeed “an incinerator that burns solid waste, as defined under federal and Pennsylvania law and regulations, and should be regulated as such.”

“I think the case is closed on whether DTE is planning an incinerator when the waste industry itself says it’s an incinerator — and their trade association members operate incinerators, like the one in Bucks County,” says Rich Fegley, one of the ARCA members that filed a separate appeal of DTE’s permits.

This language matters because, as PWIA’s appeal argues, DTE is trying to avoid being regulated as a waste incinerator.  They call themselves an energy facility, and state that their waste (processed trash and sewage sludge) is not a waste, but a “fuel.”  This distinction allows them to avoid stricter environmental regulations.  PWIA claims that DEP was wrong to designate the waste as a fuel because it contains some pollutants at higher levels than are found in coal, and because only EPA is authorized to make such a designation.

“The Department issued a Plan Approval for what will become the dirtiest solid waste incinerator in the Commonwealth,” according to PWIA’s appeal.  PWIA claims that the air permit granted to DTE fails to contain appropriate emission monitoring and that its emission restrictions do not meet the Best Available Technology requirements.  “Despite the exciting name for its process — hydrothermal decomposition — this facility is nothing more than an inefficient and more costly type of waste-to-energy incinerator,” they write.  Echoing their comments filed last year, they point out that DTE’s incinerator would produce only about half of the electricity (per ton of waste burned) that other incinerators in the state produce.

PWIA also points out that the waste disposal costs are “significantly higher than market prices.”  In their comments last year, PWIA accused DTE of making “false claims” and noted that landfilling in the Lehigh Valley costs about $60/ton, and that Easton had just signed a 7-year contract for $40.44/ton, yet Delta Thermo represented to Allentown officials that landfills cost $90.48/ton and will increase 7% per year.  Actual landfill costs in the state have stayed stable in the past decade, they state.  These representations convinced Allentown officials to sign a 35-year contract with DTE.

ARCA members, Rich Fegley, Breena Holland and Bonne South appealed the air permit on similar grounds, including a lack of adequate emissions monitoring.  Additional points being appealed include failures to apply regulations for sewage sludge incinerators, inadequate regulation of highly-toxic dioxin emissions, and failure to hold public hearings.

Allentown resident Bonne South was diagnosed with asthma only a few years after returning to the Lehigh Valley. She states “I am concerned about how this experimental incinerator will affect us for generations to come. We already rank as the 11th worst place to live with asthma, and there is no way burning 150 tons of trash and sludge each day will improve conditions. Throughout this process, the public has been misled by Delta Thermo — from the implied cost-savings, to the New Jersey “test facility” which only processed 3-5 pounds of waste and never built or conducted the combustion-to-energy portion, to the claims about “near-zero emissions” they refuse to continuously monitor. I am extremely troubled that Allentown administration signed-off on a 35-year contract with this company, putting Allentown and Bethlehem residents, tens of thousands of children, at ground-zero for testing the health and environmental impact of this experimental technology.”

DEP granted DTE a general permit for the waste management side of their operations.  This permit is also being appealed by ARCA members, mainly on the basis that it’s illegal to grant a general (non-site-specific) permit to a waste incinerator under Pennsylvania regulations.


PWIA appeal:
Case: http://ehb.courtapps.com/public/update_info_pub.php?csNameID=4887
Docket: http://ehb.courtapps.com/public/document_shower_pub.php?csNameID=4887
Appeal: http://ehb.courtapps.com/efile/documentViewer.php?documentID=21789

ARCA appeal of air permit:
Case: http://ehb.courtapps.com/public/update_info_pub.php?csNameID=4888
Docket: http://ehb.courtapps.com/public/document_shower_pub.php?csNameID=4888
Appeal: http://ehb.courtapps.com/efile/documentViewer.php?documentID=21808

ARCA appeal of waste permit:
Case: http://ehb.courtapps.com/public/update_info_pub.php?csNameID=4889
Docket: http://ehb.courtapps.com/public/document_shower_pub.php?csNameID=4889
Appeal: http://ehb.courtapps.com/efile/documentViewer.php?documentID=21809

Summaries of PWIA’s comments on DTE’s air and waste permits (Dec 2013 ARCA press released not yet reported in the media)

Allentown Residents for Clean Air Renews Court Fight for Clean Air Ordinance


Allentown Residents for Clean Air Renews Court Fight for Clean Air Ordinance

ALLENTOWN – Members of Allentown Residents for Clean Air (ARCA) filed a motion in the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas to bring a clean air ordinance to the Allentown voters.  Last year, ARCA members collected nearly 3,500 signatures, exceeding the 2,000 signature requirement for Allentown voters to put an initiative on the ballot.  The Allentown Clean Air Ordinance initiative would require any company building a new incinerator in the city to continuously monitor about 20 air pollutants, release the emissions data to a website real-time, and to cap emissions for four of those pollutants.

Only one company currently aims to build an incinerator in Allentown: Delta Thermo Energy A, LLC.  They hope to find adequate investors to start building their proposed facility soon, which would burn 150 tons per day of processed trash and sewage sludge.  Delta Thermo Energy was recently awarded air pollution and waste permits by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  The air permit requires only five pollutants to be monitored on a continuous basis, plus the darkness of the smoke and the global warming pollutant, CO2 — far short of what the Allentown Clean Air Ordinance would require.

Continue reading

Delta Thermo Energy waste-to-energy plant gets necessary state permits

Online Media Coverage



Waste Industry Accuses Delta Thermo Energy of False Claims

The Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association (PWIA) is accusing Delta Thermo Energy (DTE) of making false claims at a public meeting in late October.  The meeting was hosted by the PA Department of Environmental Protection, the agency considering air pollution and waste management permit applications submitted by Delta Thermo Energy (DTE) in the past year.

As comment deadlines on these permit applications have recently expired, these latest comments debunk not only claims made to the public, but claims used to persuade the city to sign the 35-year contract they inked in March 2012.

Their comments open by accusing DTE of making false marketing claims, in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

Continue reading

Allentown Residents for Clean Air and PA Waste Industry Comments Skewer DTE Incinerator Air Permit


The Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association (PWIA) and environmental health advocates usually don’t agree on much, but they both agree that pollution permits should be denied to the trash and sewage sludge incinerator planned for Allentown by Delta Thermo Energy (DTE).

Allentown Residents for Clean Air (ARCA) members have been calling the proposed plant an incinerator, not a “waste-to-energy” facility, even citing the fact that DTE’s air pollution permit application lists them as an incinerator.  The waste industry now concurs.  In 37 pages of comments, they cite in detail how DTE’s facility is a solid waste incinerator under state and federal law.  The comments were filed, as were comments by ARCA members, as part of the comment period on the air pollution permit, which ended on Monday.  This, and a proposed waste management permit, are still pending approval by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Continue reading

Allentown Residents for Clean Air Says Judge Varricchio Got it Wrong


Allentown Residents for Clean Air Says Judge Varricchio Got it Wrong

ALLENTOWN – The Allentown Residents for Clean Air group (ARCA) says that Judge Michele Varricchio got it all wrong when she denied Allentown voters the right to vote on a clean air ordinance this November.  ARCA members collected over 2,000 signatures to bring this ordinance to the voters in response to plans by Delta Thermo Energy to burn 150 tons per day of trash and sewage sludge in the city.

On August 27, the Lehigh County Board of Elections ruled that the Allentown Clean Air Ordinance initiative cannot go to the voters because it “does not properly recognize and account for the Department of Environmental Protection’s mandated approval role.”  On appeal, brought by ARCA members, the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas agreed, once again denying voters the right to vote on the clean air initiative.

Continue reading

Lehigh County Judge’s Opinion Letter

Conclusion quoted from the end of the Judge’s opinion letter:

As such, this court agrees with the conclusion of the Board. Timothy A. Benyo, Chief Clerk of the Election Board provided an explanation of the Boards’ August decision. He wrote that the Board found that the “City of Allentown Clean Air Ordinance, as proposed, does not properly recognize and account for the Department of Environmental Protection’s mandated approval role.” The proposed ordinance establishes an air pollution control program that is not authorized pursuant to APCA, 35 P.S. 4012(b) in that the City of Allentown is not a first or second class county. Furthermore, the proposed ordinance does not provide for or acknowledge the required application and approval of the Department in that the proposed ordinance is effective immediately. Therefore, the decision of the Board is affirmed and the writ of mandamus is denied. – Michele A. Varricchio, J.

Read the full document here

Allentown Residents for Clean Air Sues Election Board to Bring Clean Air Ordinance to Voters


ALLENTOWN – Four members of Petitioners’ Committee for the Allentown Clean Air Ordinance initiative, also members of Allentown Residents for Clean Air (ARCA), filed suit in the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas today to require the Lehigh County Board of Elections to put the initiative on the November ballot, as required by the Allentown Home Rule Charter.

They filed a mandamus action, a type of suit requiring the government to do their job when their duties are mandatory and the plaintiffs have a clear legal right. The suit cites the Allentown Home Rule Charter’s language that states that the city council “shall submit the proposed or referred ordinance to the voters of the City” if they do not vote to pass the ordinance themselves. On June 19, City Council voted to table the ordinance, forgoing to pass it within the 60 days they had to do so.

Continue reading

ARCA appeals to Lehigh County commissioners

Here is the latest news on our Clean Air Ordinance. The Lehigh County Commissioners are looking into the appeal process for ARCA to appeal the Lehigh County Elections Board’s rejection of our ordinance. Stay tuned.

quote From WFMZ-69

Thwarted clean air law advocates appeal to Lehigh County commissioners

“This is a real crisis of democracy,” said county resident Al Wurth, a political science professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem. “The cancellation of an election is not something I thought I would read about in this country, much less my home county.

“I’m very concerned as a citizen of Lehigh County that the county is usurping Allentown’s sovereignty.”

“I share your concerns,” said Commissioner Michael Schware, who resides in Allentown. The process is deeply flawed, said Commissioner Vic Mazziotti. Wurth called on county commissioners to tell the election board to reconsider its decision and let city voters decide whether the air pollution ordinance should become law. But Commissioner Scott Ott, who chaired the meeting, said the commissioners do not have the power to overrule the election board. Ott added: “Do not interpret our desire to follow the law with a lack of sympathy for your cause.” Commissioners have asked the county’s lawyers to look into whether election board decisions can be appealed. They also hope to get a clear explanation from the election board about why it rejected the ballot initiative.

Read more from WFMZ.com

DEP Joins in the City’s Scare Tactics about Ordinance Legality

At the city’s request, the Department of Environmental Protection has put together a letter dated today (6/19), the day of the city council meeting where city council gets to vote on the ordinance.  The letter was actually released earlier, as the city had it on 6/18, just in time to email to local reporters so they could write articles on this day of the vote, claiming that the ordinance is illegal.  The ordinance is NOT preempted by state law, as DEP claims.  Mike Ewall, Esq. of Energy Justice Network, author of the Allentown Clean Air Ordinance, debunks the DEP’s letter here.

See today’s news articles on this here, here, and here.