Pa. board refuses summary judgment for either side in Old Dominion power plant case

The Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) has declined to grant summary judgment prior to a full hearing in a case concerning the discharge permit that’s been issued for the Old Dominion Electric Cooperative Wildcat Point natural gas power plant.

The Chester Water Authority’s appeal from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)’s issuance on April 9 of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is not ready for summary judgment, EHB Judge Bernard Labuskes, Jr. ruled May 11.

“It is also clear from a review of both motions that numerous unresolved genuine issues of material disputed fact prevent summary judgment from being entered in favor of either party,” the judge held.

“We have every indication that this appeal will turn on a battle of the experts,” according to the ruling. “There does not appear to be much disagreement on the applicable principles of law.”

The 1,000-MW combined-cycle gas plant that Old Dominion is building plant in Cecil County, Maryland will discharge cooling tower blowdown to the Conowingo Pond portion of the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The Conowingo Pond is a 14-mile portion of the Susquehanna River that is bounded upstream by the Holtwood Dam and is impounded downstream by the Conowingo Dam in Maryland, according to the board document.

The pond is the source and receiver of water for the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, the Muddy Run Pumped Storage Facility, and the York Energy Center. It also serves as the drinking water supply for the city of Baltimore and the Appellant, Chester Water, which supplies many thousands residents in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Old Dominion’s plan is to withdraw water from the Pond, after which it will be clarified, chlorinated, treated with an anti-scaling agent, and then used in cooling towers where it is expected that about 90% will be evaporated and about 10% will eventually be returned to the Pond.

If the Pond were a free-flowing river, Chester Water’s intake, located 940 feet away from Old Dominion’s discharge in the direction of about 90 degrees relative to the direction of expected flow, would probably be considered upstream of Old Dominion’s discharge.

“The Pond, however, looks more like a lake than a river and is heavily managed and utilized, so under some conditions we are told that Old Dominion’s intake and discharge could conceivably cause Old Dominion’s discharge plume to spread toward Chester Water’s intake,” according to the judge’s opinion.

“Chester Water’s concern for maintaining acceptable water quality at its intake is the reason we have this appeal,” according to the judge’s decision.

Both sides have sought summary judgment over the issue of whether the DEP did an adequate analysis before issuing the permit. But the judge found that the factual issues are too involved to rule in favor of either party at this point.

Chester Water versus Pennsylvania DEP and ODEC; EHB Docket No. 2015-064-L

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at