If you enjoy outdoor activities, there are plenty of places in our area from which to choose when it comes to fishing, boating and hiking. That being said, people have their favorites and access to one of them was lost late last year when Talen Energy, the owner/operator of the Brunner Island Steam Electric Station in York Haven, decided to make its property off limits.
The closure is really hitting home now because of the weather. The warm water discharged by the plant drew fish and fishermen because of the lack of ice. Were we able to get on the water in the recent sub-freezing temperatures, there’s a good chance there would be fish on our dinner plate.
The news has not been taken well for a number of reasons. In addition to the action itself, the manner in which the decision was publicized was not well received. I question whether or not Talen ever issued a press release about the move. There was no public meeting or opportunity for the surrounding community to weigh in. The general public found out mostly by word of mouth, which is especially inconsiderate to local businesses that stand to take a hit financially. Talen distributed an email to the local media saying the company was doing this because it is “operating an active power plant.”
A letter explaining the move was sent to my office approximately 10 days before the “No Trespass” signs were posted. Obviously I was shocked and discouraged. I know the company can’t be happy with the individuals responsible for vandalizing the property and dumping trash that has accumulated across the road from the plant. There are ways the company could have monitored that situation (cameras?) and dealt with “the few” in order to not disappoint “the many.” I believe so.
Instead, Talen Energy pulled the plug because, legally, they could. I felt the situation could have been handled in a more open, transparent fashion. Last year, it closed Holtwood Park in Lancaster County but reopened the Kelly’s Run portion when local hikers voiced their opposition. The park is now open because Talen washed its hands of the facility by donating it to the Lancaster County Conservancy.
Talen’s decision is also a curious one because of how it handles its Luzerne County facility. According the Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant website, “the Susquehanna Riverlands Environmental Preserve has been providing the people of north central Pennsylvania with quality recreation on its 1,200 acres on both the east and west banks of the Susquehanna River. Susquehanna is a good steward of the resources that have been entrusted to us. It’s also a good neighbor.”
Talen maintains this community-friendly attitude with its nuclear power station near Berwick while doing just the opposite around the Brunner Island facility. Anyone who has lived in our area for any length of time is aware of the stigma attached to nuclear power due to the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island. Because Brunner Island is ”only” fueled by coal and natural gas, you might understand if Talen instead closed off the land adjacent to its Luzerne County plant because of the nuclear “threat.” That obviously is not the case.
Please know I’m not giving up the fight. I enjoy the outdoors and don’t like seeing this happen to a great piece of property. I’ll be curious to see and hear the reaction to Saturday’s meeting at the Conewago Inn near Manchester. My hope is the public turnout will sway Talen into changing its mind with regard to Brunner Island.
On Talen’s Luzerne County plant website, it states, “Employees at Susquehanna know that part of being a good neighbor is giving back to the community.” I hope the company lives up to that and re-open Brunner Island.
Representative Keith Gillespie
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Scott Little