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)

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