Bechtel nixes $1B power plant after years of permitting battles

Dive Brief:

  • Renovo Energy Center, an energy company owned by Bechtel Development Co., nixed its approximately $1 billion power plant project in central Pennsylvania April 14, according to a statement sent to Construction Dive.
  • The Reston, Virginia-based firm cited ongoing appeals from environmental groups as the primary reason for discontinuing the Renovo, Pennsylvania, project. Nevertheless, the company said that the energy market in the U.S. remains strong, including renewable and liquefied natural gas projects.
  • “Renovo Energy Center will discontinue development of the proposed combined-cycle plant in Renovo,” the statement reads. “After more than eight years, we do not see a path to a reasonable conclusion of the project’s air permit appeal, and have made the difficult decision to discontinue development.”

Dive Insight:

Bechtel was to lead the engineering and construction oversight for the plant, which would have provided electricity for customers in Pennsylvania and New York, according to a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection application filing.

The 1,240-megawatt electric generating station, initially announced in 2015, was to be built on a 68-acre former rail yard site in Renovo. The station would have been powered by two natural gas and diesel-fired combustion turbine engines, according to the document.

Philadelphia-based nonprofit environmental organization Clean Air Council argued against the project over the past several years due to potential issues with air pollution levels, environmental justice concerns and health risks for nearby residents associated with the gas-fired plant, according to the group. In August 2022, the Clean Air Council and other environmental groups won some of their challenges concerning air quality permits for the project, according to the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board

Joseph Otis Minott, executive director and chief counsel of Clean Air Council, called the plant “dangerous” and cheered its cancellation as a “crucial win for the health, welfare and safety of the residents of Renovo,” in an April 14 press release.

Yet Renovo Mayor Gene Bruno has criticized the environmental groups that spearheaded these pollution appeals, according to Penn Live. He called the scrapped plans a major hit to the county’s economy, citing lost jobs and tax revenue.

Meanwhile, Mike Flanagan, president of the Clinton County, Pennsylvania, Economic Partnership, said the project had “tremendous community support and would have been an economic jolt for an area that badly needs it.”

Bechtel, the country’s second largest contractor by revenue, has been selected to lead various multibillion-dollar projects across the country recently, including phase one of Intel’s $20 billion semiconductor facility in Licking County, Ohio, and a $13 billion Sempra LNG project near Houston.

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