Thursday, August 10, 2006

Seven Hours

On Tuesday, Assistant Campaign Manager Andy Walz and I attended the final public hearing of the Robinson Township supervisors on the permit applications for the waste-coal power plant proposed for the gob pile off Beach Hollow Road near the McDonald-Midway exit of Route 22-30.

The session, held at the Fort Cherry High School auditorium, lasted from 6 p.m. to 1:15 a.m.! (We only made it until about 12:15 a.m.) There were several more hours of "expert testimony" in addition to the public comment session. Caroline Shannon has a report in today's O-R about the hearing.

A representative of the Raccoon Creek Watershed Association spoke in favor of the project -- saying she believed the removal of the waste coal would provide permanent assurance that it would no longer be a threat to Little Raccoon Creek. She stated that the owner of the gob pile is currently treating the acid run-off into the creek and the waters do sustain some types of fish.

We learned on Tuesday that, on Monday, July 31, a meeting was held at Quicksilver Golf Course between representatives of Robinson Power Co. (the applicant) and all three of the Robinson Township supervisors. Those who had registered at the public hearings as "objectors" to the project were also invited but it appears that most did not attend (due to short notice and vacations).

I find this to be troubling. What was said in this meeting that could not be said in the public forums?

After some 30 hours of public hearings (between those of the township planning commission and the supervisors), for these types of talks to take place at this late stage seems to be a slap in the face to the whole process and to the citizens of Robinson Township and the surrounding area.

It surprises me that such a meeting does not run contrary to the provisions the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law. I am not accusing anyone of breaking the law -- I am not an attorney. But, from my years as a newspaper reporter and now as a borough councilman, it has always been my understanding that when a majority of the elected officials of a municipality are gathered together and public business is being discussed that it is necessary to advertise it in the legal notices of a local newspaper as a public meeting.

An aside: From the Raccoon Creek Watershed Association website, here is a map of the watershed:

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