Planning Commission Gives Preliminary Approval to Solar Farm Project
The 178 acre array footprint project, nicknamed “Cobalt,” and being planned by Cypress Creek Renewables, was the primary topic of discussion of the meeting on Wednesday.
Details of the project were first reported by exploreClarion.com. on August 1.
Representatives from Kimley Horn, an engineering firm based in Green Tree, Pennsylvania, and attorney Jon Beckman of Steptoe & Johnson, both working and representing on behalf of Cypress Creek, were in attendance to answer questions and present specific details regarding the Washington Township project.
So far, stormwater management plans have been approved by the EADS Group (an engineering consultant firm in Clarion County), but erosion and sedimentation plans and an NPDES permit are currently being reviewed by the conservation district and DEP for approval.
The NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit program was created in 1972 by the Clean Water Act (CWA). It addresses water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants to water.
Beckman, the lawyer representing Cypress Creek for Project Cobalt, explained in further detail.
“We have applied for NPDES permitting through the county conservation district, and that is now pending,” said Beckham. “As part of our application we submitted a waiver request simply for the procedural timing of having that approval.”
Regardless of the waiver, “the substance of the permit will be unaffected and will still be approved by the conservation district before there would be any earth disturbance under our request,” according to Beckman.
This prompted some questions from the board.
Planning commission board member Eugene Metcalf, who is also on the conservation district board who stated before that the conservation district board discussed the project and that they’re “all in favor of it” responded, “the problem that I foresee is that this has to be approved by DEP because there are wetlands involved… my question is if we were to approve this, and DEP disapproves it, what happens then?”
In addition to the pending permit, the PA DEP timeframe for approval is two months.
“To be honest, with my work with DEP I could imagine that being significantly longer,” said Beckham. “We would request a preliminary approval without any earth disturbance or work being able to be performed on the site until that NPDES permit gets approved by PA DEP.”
The wait time most likely would not impact the project timeline considering that the “absolute earliest” possible start date for construction is May of 2023, said Chelsey – a project manager involved in the construction who joined the meeting via zoom.
“We are willing to forbear that risk of having the permit approved by PA DEP,” concluded Beckman.
Beckman also made it clear to the board that there are no legal ramifications if the PA DEP disapproved the permit.
“This is quite common in other districts,” he noted.
Metcalf further questioned Beckman as to “what is going on in your project that requires you or has you asking to have approval prior to DEP review? Is it something that is critical to the project?”
“Well that is an excellent question,” said Beckman. “I would say it’s actually critical because it invests our right in land development, that’s it. It de-risks the project.”
Thomas Katelhon, one of the representatives who attended the board meeting from the engineering consulting firm Kimley Horn, affirmed that, “we’re avoiding any type of stream or wetland impact… we also make sure that we hold onto a buffer that’s either established by DEP or by the county.”
When it came time to grant a motion to preliminary approve the project, Metcalf said, “I would like to do it with a caveat. I’d like to go ahead and grant preliminary approval, with the contingent that before they move any dirt, that they have the DEP’s approval.”
The motion was seconded by board member Roger Nulph.
The NPDES permit would need to be approved and a copy of that permit would be submitted to the Planning Commission before construction would be allowed to begin, regardless of the timeframe.
“That works with our needs and we appreciate that,” said Beckman.
The motion was carried and approved unanimously.
Also in attendance were Marci and Matt Steinman, landowners who owns one of two parcels that will be home to the Cobalt Project. The second parcel is owned by Nancy and Bruce Weaver.
“We wanted to make sure whatever we did protected the integrity of the land,” said Matt Steinman whose residence lies approximately 200 feet from the site.
Steinman said those involved in the Cobalt project have been accommodating in protection of the integrity and the aesthetics of the property.
“We grew up close to this area and we did not want to negatively affect our farm,” said Steinman.
Steinman included that a trout stream on the property will be protected and unaffected by the project and sheep may even graze around the panels once the solar farm is up and running.
Sheep grazing has been a growing attractive way to incorporate “dual use” of land that is being used in a solar farm. Solar operators save money on land maintenance and sheep owners get access to grazing pastures.
Other motions approved at the meeting include:
- Outlook Inn, LLC, Brady Township – Modification Application – Section 206 (B) (3) (a) (i) – Relief from Minimum 43,560 Square Foot Lot Size Requirement Minor Subdivision Application – Preliminary and Final Approval.
- Benjamin Schwartz, et. al., Licking Township – Modification Application – Section 206 (B) (3) (a) (i) – Relief from Minimum 43,560 Square Foot
Lot Size Requirement Minor Subdivision Application – Preliminary & Final Approval
- Dale L. & Barbara K. Myers, Knox Borough – Modification Application – Section 206 (B) (1) (a) (i) – Relief from Minimum 7,500 Square Foot Lot Size Requirement for Combined Lot Modification Application – Section 206 (B) (1) (a) (i); Relief from Minimum 7,500 Square Foot Lot Size Requirement for Residual Lot Modification Application – Section 206 (B) (1) (c); Relief from Minimum 40 Foot Side Setback Distance Requirement Minor Subdivision Application – Preliminary & Final Approval
- Pennsylvania American Water Company, Paint Township – Riverhill Lift Station Upgrades Land Development Application – Final Approval
- Pennsylvania American Water Company, Monroe Township – Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvements Land Development Application – Final Approval
- Walmart Real Estate Store No. 1/Pennsylvania American Water Company, Monroe Township – Mays Lift Station Land Development Application – Final Approval
Copyright © 2024 EYT Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Any copying, redistribution or retransmission of the contents of this service without the express written consent of EYT Media Group, Inc. is expressly prohibited.