State officials reviewing an air quality permit for Keystone Cement Co.’s US$165m expansion proposed in East Allen Township heard little opposition at a public hearing Tuesday. The hearing, held at Northampton Area High School and organized by the department of environmental protection, drew about a dozen people and lasted just over a half-hour. Two local residents and two company employees testified. Of the residents who spoke, neither voiced environmental concerns about the project. Instead, both lauded the company’s efforts to enhance its operations and retain high-paying Lehigh Valley jobs.
Northampton resident Edward Pany, curator of a local cement memorial and former Atlas Cement employee, told DEP officials he was speaking in support of "the good, hearty and hard-working men and women" of Keystone Cement. He urged the DEP to support Keystone’s plans to continue the region’s rich cement-making legacy.
Elmer Gates, a prominent local businessman and founding member of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., said he supported Keystone’s efforts to "boost" the local economy and reuse industrial land without expanding into open space. "I congratulate them for being as good a community citizen as they’ve been," he said, calling the cement company a "responsible steward of the environment."
Stephen Holt, Keystone’s vice-president of environmental compliance, said the proposed expansion will allow the company to convert production from a "wet" to a "dry" process, improving efficiency by nearly 30 per cent. Air emissions, he said, will likely decrease with the new technology.