By Amanda August
The Daily Item
NEW COLUMBIA — White Deer Township officials unanimously approved the retention of two law firms specializing in environmental law at a meeting Tuesday night, following a half-hour executive session held to discuss “possible litigation.”
The law firms — Rhoads & Sinon, of Harrisburg, and Zaepfel Law, of Lancaster — will examine the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s recent approval of an air quality application for the White Deer Energy Project, a tire-burner that would help power National Gypsum’s West Milton operation, built by En-Tire Logistics, of Baltimore. The law firms will then recommend whether the township should appeal the decision, Supervisor Chairman Carroll Diefenbach said.
The supervisors approved a second motion allowing the township to retain any experts or consultants necessary for the process.
About 30 members of the public were on hand for the meeting, many praising the supervisors’ efforts.
“White Deer Township has shown great leadership,” said resident Pete Mackey. “I think you’re serving the community well.”
The supervisors also voted to move their next meeting from Oct. 22 to Oct. 21, so the supervisors and members of the public can attend both that meeting and a special DEP-hosted public forum on Oct. 22.
By the meeting on Oct. 21, the supervisors should have the law firms’ recommendations for the appeal, Diefenbach said.
“The time clock is ticking on this,” he said, referring to the Oct. 25 appeal deadline.
Diefenbach said he did not know how much the legal consultation will cost the township, but said the township did not have to pay a retainer and that the supervisors told the law firms they didn’t want to bankrupt the township.
While many at the meeting oppose the tire burner project — with Mackey adding that many in attendance were looking into filing independent appeals of the DEP approval — township solicitor Pete Matson kept the discussion to the lawyer retention, noting that the township is not favoring one side or the other.
“We don’t want there to be any indication of pre-judgement,” he said. “The township has maintained an open mind.”
The retention of the legal firms is “not action to institute an appeal,” just to look into what is in the township’s best interests, Matson said.
Matson also noted that the township has not received an application from En-Tire yet.