EDITORIAL: DEP has credibility problem in Hellam Township

York Dispatch

Five thousand dollars might not sound like a lot of money, especially at a time when governments tend to count by millions and billions.

But in a municipality the size of Hellam Township, five grand could go a long way, helping to fund the fire department, library and parks, among other services.

That was Supervisor Galen Weibley's argument against spending $5,000 for an additional consultant in the township's long fight to require Perdue AgriBusiness to install safety equipment at a proposed soybean facility across the river in Lancaster County.

"You can use $5,000 so much more in the township," he said at a meeting last week. About a half dozen residents in attendance agreed with him.

Mike Martin, chairman of the board of supervisors, stressed Hellam Township isn't opposed to the $59 million plant, which would generate more than 150 construction jobs, 35 long-term jobs and 500 jobs in crop production and transportation.

Officials on this side of the Susquehanna just want to make sure adequate safeguards are in place to reduce dangerous emissions, he said.

And we don't begrudge the board spending money to fight for its residents' health.

The plant would emit nearly 246,000 pounds of hexane — federally classified as a hazardous air pollutant — into the atmosphere every year, according to an application the company submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

We just think it's a shame they don't trust the DEP to do what's right — in this case, proponents argue, requiring Perdue to add additional equipment to limit hexane emissions.

It is the DEP's job, after all, to provide a safe environment for Pennsylvanians.

The agency seems to have a credibility problem, at least in Hellam Township, where residents have been raising these concerns since Perdue announced plans for the plant in 2011.

If the DEP doesn't intend to require the extra safety features at the plant, it definitely needs to spend more time there explaining why they aren't necessary.