Q&A


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Q. Who is Tenaska?

A. Tenaska is an energy company with headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. Tenaska and its affiliates specialize in developing, financing, constructing, owning and operating reliable, cost-efficient, environmentally responsible power plants. Established in 1987, Tenaska has developed and constructed approximately 10,000 megawatts (MW) of electric generating capacity across the United States. Tenaska’s affiliates currently operate and manage approximately 7,000 MW of power generation consisting of nine power plants, which are owned by Tenaska in partnership with other companies. The company also markets natural gas and electric power; provides risk management services for energy companies; and is involved in asset acquisitions, fuel supply, natural gas exploration, production and transportation systems, and electric transmission development.

Q. Why is this project located in Westmoreland County?

A. Westmoreland County is an excellent location for a power plant that will help supply energy to the PJM Interconnection transmission system, which coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states, including Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. The specific site was selected because of its access to existing natural gas pipelines and transmission lines and the availability of adequate amounts of water. This minimizes the need for new infrastructure.
Additionally, several coal-fueled plants in the region have or are expected to retire. The Westmoreland project would help replace that lost generation with power produced from clean-burning natural gas and fewer emissions.
Also, the fact that area leaders promote business growth in the county is instrumental in the successful development of these projects.

Q. What is the benefit of having a power plant in the area?

A. The plant would provide significant benefit to the Westmoreland County tax base. Its owners will pay property taxes in the county during the plant’s years of operation. At the same time, the plant will create little demand for local services, such as schools, police or roads — a win-win for residents of the township and county. The presence of a modern, low-emission power plant will help shift the source of power away from older plants with greater emissions. And it is expected to provide well-paying jobs, both short term (more than 300, on average, during construction) and long term (up to 25 during decades of operation). Electricity produced by the plant would help prevent brown-outs and keep electricity prices stable.

Q. What is the operational lifetime of the plant?

A. These plants are generally considered to have a lifetime of 30 years; however, good maintenance and care would be employed, so it could contribute to the region’s energy needs for decades more.

Q. Is there a need for power in the Westmoreland County area?

A. The power would be sold into the PJM Interconnection market, an electric transmission grid covering several states (including Pennsylvania) and serving millions of people. While the electricity would be used regionally, it is part of an electrical system that is increasing in electric capacity to manage a predicted long-term growth in regional power demand of about 1.5 to 2 percent per year. The Tenaska Westmoreland Generating Station will do a great deal to support the public’s need for affordable, reliable electricity.

Q. How much of the power this plant generates will stay in Westmoreland County?

A. Power produced by the Tenaska Westmoreland Generating Station would serve the PJM Interconnection transmission system, which coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states, including Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. However, that power would contribute to the reliability of the power grid that serves Westmoreland County.

Q. What type of facility is Tenaska planning for Westmoreland County?

A. Tenaska Westmoreland will be a combined-cycle facility that would convert clean-burning natural gas into electricity. At this point, the facility would be 925 megawatts of generating capacity, enough to meet the electricity needs of approximately 925,000 homes in the region.

Q. Why did Tenaska decide to develop a natural gas plant?

A. To maintain reliability, electricity must be generated on a steady basis from nuclear, hydro or fossil fuels. Other sources, such as wind power, produce electricity intermittently. For the foreseeable future, fossil fuel generation — especially with the cleanest commercially available fuel, natural gas — will be necessary.

Q. Why did Tenaska select the site in South Huntingdon Township for its facility?

A. The key factors in selecting a site for this kind of natural gas-fueled plant are access to natural gas pipelines, electric transmission corridors and a reliable supply of water. Because these assets are present in South Huntingdon Township, Westmoreland County stands to receive significant benefits. Through increased property tax revenue, more funds should be available to support schools and emergency and safety services and deliver a host of other advantages.

Q. What would the plant’s neighbors see, hear and smell?

A. The power generating facility will encompass roughly 50 acres of the 134-acre site; the rest would remain wooded or pastured. The plant will have three stacks – two 180 feet tall and one 120 feet tall – that may be partly visible from some angles and distances off-site. Outdoor lighting at the facility will be pointed downward and inward.
Energy production equipment will be enclosed in a building, muffling sound from plant operation. Sound at the plant’s fence line typically is similar to the decibel level matching a conversation between two people.
There have been no odor concerns expressed at any Tenaska plant site. 

Q. How will children in the nearby school be protected?

A. Modern power plants are safe, and we consider safety – of our employees and the communities where our facilities are located – our highest priority. Tenaska has a nearly 30-year history of developing, constructing and operating safe, efficient and reliable power generating stations and is repeatedly recognized for its commitment to the environment, safety and the communities where it does business. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection creates and enforces regulations that are protective of the health and safety of Pennsylvania residents, and we must meet or be better than those standards.
The Tenaska Westmoreland Generating Station site includes land buffers between the facility and most neighbors that would decrease their awareness of the site. The closest school is about one mile away from the project’s property line. During construction, Tenaska works with area schools to schedule equipment deliveries around school bus operation hours. 

Q. What safety measures will be employed at the plant?

A. Safety is of the utmost importance for Tenaska, and we work hard to design a safe plant that is protective of surrounding residents and wildlife, a plant that will be operating and safely employing people for decades to come.
The Tenaska Westmoreland Generating Station will be fueled by natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel for power generation, and will be operated safely and in an environmentally responsible manner. Tenaska is recognized annually for safety records at the plants it operates and is recognized in the industry for its commitment to environmental stewardship in the siting, design, construction and operation of its projects. The Tenaska Westmoreland project is designed and would be built to meet or be better than all local, state and federal health-based environmental standards.
Natural gas by its nature is combustible, but it’s used safely in millions of homes across America, as well as in vehicles and in manufacturing/industrial facilities, including power plants. Tenaska owns and operates other natural gas-fueled power plants and has never had a natural gas explosion at one of its facilities. Every precaution is taken to maintain the plant in a safe manner.

Q. How would Tenaska describe the reception it has received so far in Westmoreland County?

A. Tenaska feels it is welcome to locate this project here. Civic and business leaders, as well as individual residents, have expressed appreciation for the benefits the plant will provide, including new tax revenue and new, stable jobs.

Q. What benefits will the plant bring to the community?

A. In addition to providing reliable power for the region, the project is expected to provide more property tax revenue to local units of government; boost the local economy, with a total estimated construction cost of more than $500 million; and create more than 300 jobs, on average, during construction and up to 25 well-paying, full-time jobs during operation. At the same time, the plant will create little demand for local services, such as schools, police or roads.
There will be additional “trickle down” benefits during construction and operation, as the construction workers and plant employees eat in restaurants and shop in local establishments. In addition, there will be a number of opportunities for ongoing contracting work to local companies. We have spoken to local economic development representatives who say a conservative rule of thumb is that a large capital-intensive project such as this one brings seven times the amount of its investment in overall economic benefit. For our project, that would mean, conservatively, an overall economic impact of $3.5 billion.

Q. Where will the construction workers come from?

A. Plant construction will offer employment opportunities to qualified local laborers and skilled craft workers. When Tenaska builds a power plant, it typically hires an EPC — Engineering, Procurement and Construction — contractor. The EPC contractor performs design, completes engineering and manages construction of the plant. The EPC contractor also awards construction materials contracts and subcontracts for certain portions of the work. Tenaska has developed and managed construction of 17 large power plants, and its construction contractors typically have made a concerted effort to hire workers from the local area. Tenaska encourages the practice when possible. Some specialized work may require skills that may not be available regionally. A study of records at Tenaska’s Grimes County, Texas, plant shows half of the workers came from within 50 miles of the site. At Tenaska’s plant in Rusk County, Texas, about 80 percent of the workers came from within 50 miles.

Q. How many workers will be on site?

A. Over the entire construction period, an average of approximately 300 trades and other workers will be at the site. During peak construction, the number could grow to 600 to 700. The average construction worker is typically on site for about five months.

Q. When can I begin applying for a job at the Westmoreland facility?

A. Tenaska has started the hiring process for operations jobs at Tenaska Westmoreland Generating Station. Details about working at the plant can be found here.
As positions are posted – which will be done in phases starting in spring 2017 and continuing through spring 2018 – information about the qualifications and the application process can be found here. (As this is a phased hiring process, please check this site periodically for the latest job postings.) All applications must be submitted through this online process.

Q. What will be the source and quantity of water used at the plant?

A. Water is used at the plant primarily to cool equipment but also to make steam, which powers the steam turbine-generator portion of the plant’s electric generating capacity. As it does this, the process is very efficient. Typically, water is circulated multiple times through the plant’s systems. The plant is expected to use an annual average of about 6 million gallons of water per day when in operation. The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County has signed an agreement for Tenaska to obtain water from the municipal water treatment plant. This agreement provides the water that will serve the plant’s needs for 30 to 50 years. This purchase of water maintains the community’s quality of life and capacity to grow.

Q. How is the wastewater regulated and monitored?

A. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is authorized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to administer the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The NPDES permit establishes effluent limitations and the monitoring frequency of the return water to the river. Tenaska is responsible for monitoring and reporting the parameters listed to maintain compliance with the NPDES permit. DEP derived the effluent limitations based on a maximum flow criteria of 1.2 million gallons per day in an effort to apply the most stringent regulatory requirements.

Q. How will wastewater from the plant be discharged into the Youghiogheny River?

A. The amount of water discharged into the river is based on weather and plant dispatch. Tenaska expects the annual average daily discharge to be on the order of 0.5 million gallons per day.
The wastewater will consist of potable water that has been used by the power plant for cooling and other purposes. The wastewater will be treated as necessary to meet the limits in the plant’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
The temperature of the water discharged into the river will be a couple of degrees above the air temperature. Additionally, the water discharge at any given time is not permitted to exceed conditions contained within our permit.

Q. How will Tenaska control the amount of water it discharges to the Youghiogheny River, particularly during floods?

A. The project is required to control storm water runoff from the 50-acre plant site as part of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. To meet this requirement, Tenaska has designed storm water retention basins that limit the amount of storm water discharged to area streams tributary to the Youghiogheny River. This measure alone will not prevent flooding conditions, but it will delay some of the storm water flow from the plant to the river during storm events. The return water flow from the plant is not subject to restrictions during flooding events.

Q. What impact would the plant have on air quality?

A. Emissions from this plant would not significantly affect air quality in Westmoreland County or elsewhere. The combination of natural gas as fuel and best available emissions control technology would ensure that any emissions from this facility would meet or be less than applicable health-based state and national compliance standards. Tenaska submitted a complete analysis of air quality impacts, which was available for public review, as part of the air quality permitting process. Tenaska has demonstrated a commitment to environmental stewardship in the siting, design, construction and operation of its projects. The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental organization, has listed Tenaska in benchmarking studies since 2004 as having among the lowest fleetwide average emission rates for fossil-fueled power plants in the U.S.

Q. What emissions will be regulated for the plant?

A. Power plants developed by Tenaska are designed, constructed and operated to meet or be better than all applicable state and national environmental standards. Natural gas is recognized as today’s cleanest commercial fossil fuel for power generation; emissions will be very low. The emissions most regulated for natural gas-fueled plants are nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. However, the combination of natural gas as fuel, state-of-the-art design and best available/lowest achievable control technology will limit emissions.
A clean-burning natural gas plant will also provide a cleaner source of electricity for the region as nearby coal power plants retire. Our models show that the Westmoreland plant will be able to replace 38 percent of the electric generating capacity lost through coal plant retirements with less than 1 percent of the emissions.

Q. How will the plant preserve our air quality?

A. Emissions from this plant will not significantly affect air quality. Air quality modeling has demonstrated that all ambient air quality standards will be met, taking into account emissions from the facility and more than 65 other regional sources, as well as existing background concentrations already monitored by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The combination of clean-burning natural gas as fuel and best available/lowest achievable emission control technology will ensure that emissions meet or are better than all applicable state and national standards. Tenaska submitted a complete analysis of air quality impacts as part of the air quality permitting process.

Q. What would happen to the plant if the natural gas pipeline were shut down for any reason?

A. An interconnect to a natural gas pipeline is usually tied to two separate supplies in case one is being serviced. By the way, the supply of reliable, clean natural gas obtained from Pennsylvania itself is growing. Natural gas would be the primary fuel at the plant. There is the potential for the plant to have a few days’ supply of fuel oil on hand as a backup, but a final decision has not been made as to whether to include that feature at the Tenaska Westmoreland project. Should it be included, the plant would use low-sulfur fuel oil. Of course, the plant would be required to meet all environmental standards while operating on either fuel.

Q. What type of hazardous materials be used, stored or produced at the generating station?

A. Any materials used at the generating station would be used in accordance with applicable U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. There may be sulfuric acid and caustics stored on-site in tanks using special systems to minimize the chance of accidental spills or releases. There could be smaller quantities of other water treatment chemicals, but none is expected to contain priority pollutants as listed by the U.S. EPA. Ammonia, used in the nitrogen oxides emission control system, would be stored in a tank using special systems to minimize the chance of accidental spills or releases. The plant would routinely produce small quantities of hazardous and non-hazardous waste, and the facility would not be permitted to dispose of these wastes on-site. All wastes would be managed on-site in accordance with state and federal regulations and would be shipped off-site for recycling or disposal.

Q. Is Tenaska a good corporate citizen in locations where it has facilities?

A. Yes. Tenaska employees at nine plant sites volunteer thousands of hours in community service annually. Tenaska plants regularly work with local fire departments, Scout troops and civic groups to assist those in need. Tenaska typically sponsors a college scholarship program to benefit local high school students. To date, more than 800 students have received approximately $650,000 in college scholarships. Tenaska Virginia Generating Station won the Virginia Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Award, and Tenaska Georgia Generating Station has been named Heard County Business of the Year.

Q. Who do I contact if I have questions?

A. You can email Tenaska directly from the contact page of this website.

Q. Where can I find more information on Tenaska?

A. More information on Tenaska is available on our website at www.tenaska.com.