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Perdue permitting review continues for Conoy Twp. project

Md. firm made new submission to DEP this summer for $60M soybean-processing, grain elevator project

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Perdue AgriBusiness' plans to build a facility in Lancaster County that uses hexane in soybean processing remain before state environmental regulators about seven months after the company's new permitting submission.

The Maryland-based company made a revised submission in June for the proposed site in Conoy Township.

Its soybean-processing facility and grain elevator would be about a $60 million project.

The submission this summer included enhanced environmental controls and recovery technology. Hexane, a solvent to be used at the facility, has sparked local concern.

A component of DEP's review process is determining exactly what the lowest-possible emissions rate would be by looking at facilities in other states, state Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Lisa Kasianowitz said.

The process continues, she said.

DEP received a mandate ordered by Gov. Tom Corbett in 2012 for timely permitting, but a new permit decision guarantee policy does not apply to the Perdue application, she said.

The type of permitting for which Perdue has applied can be unique and "immensely complex," requiring a back-and-forth with applicants, Kasianowitz said.

She said there is no timetable for a permitting decision at this time.

Projected total facility emissions in Perdue's submission to DEP this summer were lower than the previous ones by about 40 tons annually, dropping to about 208 tons per year.

The beans can be pressed to remove the oil. But that process consumes a lot of power, and the results are less desirable, said Peter Heller, project manager for Perdue.

The company said such alternatives are not good for use with large volumes.

Demand for soybean meal used for animal feed is in excess of a million tons per year in Pennsylvania, Heller said.

At the same time, existing processing capacity in the commonwealth is much less than the state's annual soybean crop, according to Perdue, and the state imports a large share of its needed soybean meal.

"It's a market that we want to be in," Heller said.

Conoy Township is in the middle of top-producing soybean areas of Berks, Lancaster and York counties, he said. The location also would allow Perdue to take advantage of steam from the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority to use in the facility, Heller said.

This summer, Perdue released results of an air dispersion modeling and health risk assessment.

The results showed the highest long-term exposure off-site where it could happen is about five times lower than what the federal Environmental Protection Agency has set for the "most stringent safe level for chronic exposure to hexane," according to Perdue.

Judith Nissley, co-owner and president of Lancaster County-based A&R Nissley Inc., which does business as Nissley Vineyards, said she wears two hats when she thinks about the facility.

One is her business-owner hat, under which she thinks a company has the right to do business and make money, Nissley said.

But she's concerned about how any emissions from the Perdue facility might mix with what else is in the area's air. The air quality in the Harrisburg, Lancaster and York areas is degraded to begin with, she said.

"In this area, you should find a better way to do this," Nissley said.

The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry supports Perdue's project, which is a complement to the existing agricultural economy in the county, President and CEO Tom Baldrige said.

Many different stakeholders have expressed varying points of view on the project, he said.

"So there is no doubt in my mind that there is a lot to sort through," Baldrige said. "But I do continue to believe, at the end of the day, that the project will get permitted and we will be able to see the economic benefit of the plant in the near future."

Brent Burkey

Brent Burkey

Brent Burkey covers York County, agribusiness, energy and environment, and workforce issues. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at brentb@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @brentburkey.

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