One woman complained many more city residents would have attended the meeting but did not know about it. DEP officials said they advertised the meeting on three different days in a local newspaper. It also was announced on wfmz.com on Oct. 10.and posted on DEP’s website.
“I’m sorry if you don’t know about this project,” Atty. Marcel Groen of the Delta Thermo team told the woman who complained. “At some point, the responsibility is yours.”
While the woman said she never before heard about the project, last year hundreds of people attended several lengthy public meetings, including city council meetings, before it was approved. More recently, it was reviewed and approved at public meetings of the city’s planning commission.
Some residents want formal hearing
Standing on both sides of Irving Street before the meeting, a small group of sign-carrying protestors chanted.
“What do we want?”
“A public hearing.”
“When do we want it?”
Several passing drivers blew their horns and gave them a thumbs-up.
But DEP will not schedule a formal public hearing on Delta Thermo, said Connolly.
After the meeting, she said the time for the public to ask for a formal hearing “has come and gone.” She indicated people should have asked for it last summer.
McGuire, the first person to speak, was applauded when he said the meeting was not a substitute for a hearing. And a woman in the audience told DEP that people at the meeting had demonstrated there is sufficient public interest and public opposition to the project “to warrant a real public hearing where we can make our comments available on the public record.”
Delta Thermo has applied for air quality and waste management permits from DEP
One DEP official explained Delta Thermo’s waste management application was published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin “as complete” on Jan. 13.
He said a 60-day public comment period followed that publication, but the only comments received came from the Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association.
DEP also has published a notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin that it intends to issue an air quality permit. It allows 30 days for comment.
Ray Kempa of DEP called Wednesday’s night’s meeting a public hearing.
“We’re here to listen to your comments and will take them into consideration in final preparation of the permit,” he said.
But Connolly said: “This is a public meeting as opposed to a public hearing. We felt a public meeting has a more open dialogue where we can answer your questions and you can get an idea of what the project looks like and how DEP operates.”
Connolly said written comments will be accepted by DEP until Nov. 8.
She said they should be sent to DEP Northeast Regional Office, 2 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701-1915
Moderating the meeting
Connolly had her hands full moderating the meeting.
She asked people not to yell, applaud or interrupt others –instructions many ignored.
At the start, she said people could ask questions or make statements, but later she interrupted people making statements by asking: “What is your question?” She also cut some people off, saying their remarks were not relevant to the DEP permitting process for Delta Thermo.
Connolly repeatedly threatened to have people removed from the auditorium for being disruptive. She came close to doing it when at least one woman made loud heckling remarks whenever she disagreed with someone -- and did not heed Connolly’s personal warning to remain quiet. The woman told Connolly she was just coughing.
Another woman in the audience said she was insulted by the way the meeting was conducted, suggesting the people at the front of the room were ducking what they did not want to answer.