During their board meeting Thursday, Berks County Commissioners approved to review of the Plant-wide Applicability Limit Permit (PAL) for Cabot Super metals plant in Boyertown.The Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) plan approval draft states the permit deals with "establishing PAL for volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions at the facility and remove individual source VOC emission limits."

A PAL is an annual emission limitation under which an owner or operator can make changes without triggering reviews of the facility.

The Boyertown plant previously submitted the permit for review in 2004.

Safety, Health and Environmental Manager Tim Knapp was present to speak on behalf of Cabot.

Cabot Super metals is a fully integrated producer of high performance metals used in electronics, aerospace, defense, medical and chemical process industries.

Berks County will fund a $4700 air quality survey by Liberty Environmental Inc. that will be performed on Cabot and Knapp said that the corporation obligation is to work with the state and to meet the laws.

Liberty is an environmental consulting and provides engineering services.

Berks Commissioner Christian Leinbach said that if Liberty finds anything then the commissioners will make comments on the permit.

Knapp said that there is no reason why Liberty cannot conduct their study.

Leinbach apologized for not having all the information at the previous workshop meeting.

"Prior to the Tuesday morning meeting, I realized I have only one side of the equation which was a proposal from Gavin's feedback to do an air study relevant to a permitting process for the Cabot Corporation," said Leinbach.

He felt that his information from Gavin Biebuyck, president of Reading-based Liberty Environmental Inc., was one-sided prior to the Feb. 5 meeting.

Commissioner Kevin Barnhart disagreed with Leinbach about the free flow of information exchange.

"Gavin's email should not have been sent to Cabot," said Barnhart.

Leinbach said that the email should have been sent to Cabot. "I shared very openly what was said to me. I also shared equally with Gavin, with Knapp and the Department of Environmental Protection. I believe it is critical to get it out so I can make a good decision."

Chairman Mark Scott agreed with Leinbach.

"In the last decade, Cabot has made material improvements in their air emissions," he said. "This is not an offensive attempt to hurt Cabot's business."

Knapp said Cabot is in a unique situation.

"[Cabot is] half is in Montgomery County and half is in Berks County," he said. "When we submitted PAL [Plant-wide Applicability Limit Permit] to the state the intent was to allow flexibility of ups and downs in a manufacturing facility."

Scott suggested the split in county line was not as major. "Montgomery County has never shown much interest in this issue, in all the years that I've been a commissioner," he said.

"We are the only manufacturer of our size in the United States," said Knapp. "What Liberty is suggesting us to go through would fundamentally limit our assets on the ground in Boyertown and to me, that does not make good business sense."

Leinbach said the DEP is in support of Cabot.

"We're in the final stages of this process, I want to hear from everyone," Leinbach said after the meeting. "If Cabot has a problem, then I'm concerned. My job as a public servant is to put the information out there for the public."

Right, Cabot Super metals plant in Boyertown.

Berks-Mont photo by Matthew Reichl

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