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South Huntingdon couple sues over power plant plan

| Friday, June 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A South Huntingdon couple wants to halt construction of a proposed $500 million natural gas power plant.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday, Joseph and Arlene Kalinowski contend Westmoreland County, its planning department and Omaha-based Tenaska Inc. violated their rights when a site plan for the power plant was approved by county planners.

Les Mlakar, attorney for the couple, said the Kalinowskis object to plans that allow the proposed power plant to drain storm water onto their neighboring 100-acre property.

“My clients are trying to protect their property rights,” Mlakar said.

Since 2009, Tenaska has been planning construction of a 900-megawatt power plant in South Huntingdon. According to property records, the company paid more than $3.5 million to purchase 400 acres of rolling farmland along Interstate 70 between Smithton and West Newton.

The company's website said the proposed plant could be online in 2016 and provide power to up to 930,000 homes and businesses.

Tenaska has said about 300 construction jobs will be needed to build the facility. The plant would employ up to 30 full-time workers, according to the company's website.

Michael C. Roth, director for development of Tenaska's Westmoreland County project, said company officials have not reviewed the lawsuit and cannot comment on it.

Roth said the project is proceeding with permit applications and other negotiations.

“We are currently meeting with potential power customers and conducting preliminary engineering. The earliest construction could begin is in 2013, with earliest commercial operation in 2016,” Roth said.

Jason Rigone, executive director of the county planning department, said the project is a key economic development initiative for the county.

“From an economic development standpoint, it's a facility that is important. It's a good thing,” Rigone said.

The Kalinowski lawsuit specifically deals with permitting issues associated with the site plan, which was approved by the county in May.

The couple claims the company failed to obtain an easement to allow storm water to be released on their property. That oversight rendered the county's approval of the plan improper, according to the lawsuit.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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