The state Department of Environmental Protection on Friday approved the first phase of Perdue AgriBusiness' plans for a soybean storage and processing facility in Lancaster County's Conoy Township.
DEP's approval covers construction of a grain elevator where soybeans from the region would be dried, stored and shipped. That phase is budgeted at $18 million, the Salisbury, Md.-based company said in a statement.
It does not cover Perdue's planned phase two, a processing facility that would produce soybean oil and meal, Perdue and DEP spokeswoman Lisa Kasianowitz said.
That phase requires two more permits, one for air quality and one for storage of hexane, a solvent used for soybean processing, Kasianowitz said. DEP is still evaluating both those permit applications, she said.
"We received quite a few more comments on those than we did on phase one," she said.
Perdue has called the grain elevator a standalone facility that can be built regardless of whether phase two is approved. Perdue would use steam from the adjacent Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority waste-to-energy plant for the facility's grain dryers, under an agreement the authority approved last month.
However, "a grain elevator and a soybean processing facility at the same location will allow for on-site use of the grain and provide additional benefits to farmers," Perdue said in a statement.
The combined project would cost $59 million, the company said.
The processing facility could handle about 525,000 tons of soybeans a year, a Perdue spokesman previously told the Business Journal, which works out to more than two-thirds of the state's 2012 harvest.
Project opponents have raised concerns about the health hazards of hexane, which is a toxin and an eye and skin irritant. Perdue has called those concerns unfounded.
There is no timetable for when DEP will make a decision on the phase two permits, Kasianowitz said.
Perdue's application materials and DEP's phase one approval are available on the DEP website.