Prove your humanity

The company behind a new type of plastics recycling plant in central Pennsylvania has withdrawn a key permit application, but says it is still moving forward with the project.

Texas-based Encina plans to build a plant on the Susquehanna River in Point Township, Northumberland County, that will break down plastics into chemical building blocks to make new products. It calls the process circular manufacturing.

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Encina has a small plant in Texas, but the Pennsylvania project would be the first of its kind in scale. The company says the Point Township Circular Manufacturing Facility would process 450,000 tons of plastic each year.

Environmental groups say the process is unproven. They’re concerned about the company’s plans to use water from the river for washing and cooling materials, and to ship chemicals by rail.

“Upwind is Danville, so they will have the air impacts and downstream will have the water impacts. And then you have the chemical on the rails. Every community those tracks go through will be at risk,” said Eleanor Breslin, staff attorney with Clean Air Council.

Breslin said it’s not reassuring that Encina is promising to follow all environmental laws and regulations.

“That doesn’t mean that the community and the environment and everybody downstream and upwind will be protected,” Breslin said, noting that microplastics and many types of the forever chemicals PFAS are not regulated.

Encina recently withdrew its permit application for stormwater management, after state regulators said it was deficient.

The company needs the permit to start construction. Spokesperson Alison Jahn said Encina withdrew the application because it could not get an extension from the Department of Environmental Protection.

“Encina is continuing the planning phase of the project, which includes detailed site design development and related permitting work. This phase will evaluate and take into account timeline and cost impacts on an ongoing basis,” Jahn said.

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.