Pennsylvania DEP plans hearing on Penn State coal-to-gas switch

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public meeting and hearing on Oct. 30 on a proposed Air Quality plan approval for Penn State University’s conversion of its West Campus Steam Plant from coal-fired boilers to natural gas.

The meeting will be held at the State College Area High School South auditorium at 650 Westerly Parkway in State College, Centre County. 

“Staff from DEP’s Air Quality Program will explain the application review process and applicable regulations, and Penn State officials will review the project with the audience,” DEP North-central Regional Director Marcus Kohl said in a Sept 26 statement.

Penn State submitted the application to DEP in October 2012. The proposal includes constructing two new natural gas boilers and modifying two existing coal boilers to use only natural gas. The plan also includes installing two 25,000 gallon above-ground distillate oil tanks to store fuel oil for backup use in the two new boilers during gas curtailment. Two coal-fired boilers and one natural gas-fired boiler will also be demolished as part of the project. 

This proposal is part of the University Park campus facility’s efforts and compliance plan for the Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rules promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

DEP published a notice of intent to issue the plan approval in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on Aug. 3 and asked for public comment. A number of local citizens and the Ferguson Township supervisors had previously requested that the agency hold a public meeting or hearing to discuss the application.

This switch away from coal by Penn State is part of a broader national trend, spurred on by a campaign from the Sierra Club, for universities across the country like Iowa State and Michigan State to get off of coal for clean-air and energy sustainability reasons.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.