Coal-to-oil plant will help county
Editorial Board Opinion

If there is one thing that can be counted on in Schuylkill County, it is that something new always will draw opponents.

A prime example is the proposed gasification/liquefaction, or coal-to-oil, plant proposed for Morea, Mahanoy Township.

Citizens turned out Monday at a hearing at Shenandoah Valley High School to hear officials discuss the project, which already has received an air quality permit from the state.

The hearing, along with one Tuesday at D.H.H. Lengel Middle School in Pottsville, came shortly after a Philadelphia-based special-interest group, ActionPA, questioned whether the plant would be environmentally safe.

For Schuylkill County's sake, this project needs to go forward. Opponents are long on claims but short on actual scientific evidence that the plant will harm anything, and certainly have shown nothing whatsoever that outweighs the enormous economic good that will come from the plant.

John W. Rich Jr., president of Waste Management and Processors Inc. and Reading Anthracite Co., Pottsville, is the driving force behind the plant.

At that plant, the carbon will be removed from waste coal, also known as culm, and used to produce zero-sulfur diesel fuel. Conservatively, there would be created 150 jobs at the plant, 450 in services for it and 1,000 construction jobs.

This would be an enormous benefit to the region, especially since many of the jobs at the plant would be high-paying technical ones.

Of course, the opponents of the plant have no such economic benefit to the county. What they have is, when all is said and done, fear fear of the unknown and fear of technology.

Michael Ewall, founder and director of ActionPA, insists there are "a lot of concerns" about the project, yet offers nothing more than vague warnings about what might happen and exaggerated statements about what would be released into the air by the plant.

For Philadelphians to stick their noses into a Schuylkill County issue, particularly in light of the enormous corruption, crime rates and pollution in that city, is unbelievable and offensive.

While there is some local opposition to the project, that opposition also seems to be based on few, if any, facts.

If the plant were a true danger, it would not have received an air quality permit. A challenge to that permit only raises questions and complaints about comments that were allegedly ignored, not actual evidence that the state ignored.

The plant will help get rid of the culm banks that are the region's worst eyesore.

It will help reduce dependence on foreign oil, which can only benefit this area, state and nation.

It will benefit the region economically.

U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum, both R-Pa., and U.S. Rep. T. Timothy Holden, D-17, all know that, and have worked diligently to get funding for the project.

With no actual evidence of harm and none has been produced there is no reason to stop the plant and every reason to support it.

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