From: Julie BenamatI, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
Published February 1, 2005 12:00 AM

Lack of Cash Stalls Landfill- to-Energy Project

Jan. 31—A $20 million project to convert landfill gas into an energy source at Laurel Highlands, Shade and Southern Alleghenies landfills is on temporary hiatus because of a lack of cash.

The project, first announced in the fall of 2002, proposes to convert landfill gas into an energy source via a 33-mile pipeline that would connect three landfills located in Jackson Township, Cambria County, and Shade Township and Davidsville in Somerset County.

Gregory L. Shaffer, president of Keystone Renewable Energy, Greensburg, said his company is close to securing financing.

"It's been far more challenging to secure and obtain project financing than what we thought," Shaffer said in a telephone interview.

"We're very, very close to doing just that."

He said the landfills have "excellent characteristics" to host a gas recovery project for decades to come.

"The landfills have long remaining useful lives," Shaffer said.

Laurel Highlands landfill, located on Rager Mountain in Jackson Township, has a permitted lifetime of about 30 years.

Shaffer said a conversion plant could process landfill gas for an additional 40 or 50 years.

The state Department of Environmental Protection regulates the landfills, including the amount of refuse allowed into the facility.

"The gas conversion plant won't affect the remaining useful life of the landfill," Shaffer said.

"But these plants will make gas 30 years from now and beyond."

He said that once treated, the landfill gas would be comparable to natural gas.

Shaffer said there are a "handful" of gas conversion plants in the state, with many converting methane into electricity. This project would be the first of its kind in the region.

Dave Hirko, manager at Jackson Township, said stalled projects are not new.

"It's just one of those things that drags out," Hirko said in a telephone interview. "(Shaffer) had an ambitious schedule at first, and then a year went by, and now it's another year. They're plugging along."

Betsy Mallison, spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Protection in Pittsburgh, said her regional office "has not had a conversation about the gas conversion plant" in about a year, and has no permit applications on file.

Shaffer said he hopes to break ground on the project this summer.

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