HomeEnvironment & Climate NewsHydrogen Hub Boosters Promise Major Jobs, Opponents Demand More Transparency
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Hydrogen Hub Boosters Promise Major Jobs, Opponents Demand More Transparency

By Anthony Hennen

(The Center Square) — Fans of Pennsylvania’s MACH2 hydrogen hub pitch the megaproject as a way to create 20,000 jobs and reduce emissions, but critics warn that the public is left out of discussions and decisions.

The hub, one of two that will affect Pennsylvania (the other being ARCH2 in the western part of the state), provides $750 million in federal funding to a dozen sub-recipients for about 20 projects to build out a hydrogen-related economy.

“This is the reason for MACH2: We believe hydrogen is part of the solution to change our energy economy to a cleaner economy,” said Manny Citron, chief of staff for Philadelphia’s Department of Labor and part of the MACH2 team.

Citron presented the hydrogen hub plans during a Tuesday meeting of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Citizens Advisory Council.

The goal, Citron said, is for the hydrogen hub to be powered almost wholly by renewable and nuclear energy (about 77% solar or wind powered and 20% nuclear). They project the hub to create 20,000 jobs in southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware and southern New Jersey, bring more than $3 billion in investment, and drive decarbonization efforts in the mid-Atlantic region.

Jerome Shabazz, chair of the Citizens Advisory Council, noted the plans presented seemed to be at a “very general conceptualized stage.”

Citron said they expected phases one and two of the project (screening and permitting) to run about four years, then phases three and four (“shovel in the ground” and operational) to take three years each; the hub is currently “near the end of negotiation to enter phase one.”

For more detail, Citron said, the public can refer to technical documents online.

“That information is there and it is there for the public,” he said.

Opponents, though, have argued the hydrogen hub process hasn’t been transparent or responsive to the public.

Last month, scores of Appalachian groups called for a pause on the ARCH2 plan until the public gets a “more substantive opportunity to shape this proposal.” Others have been critical of the MACH2 plan.

“At every single meeting for the last four meetings, we’ve had a variety of environmental groups providing fairly negative comments towards the entire hydrogen hub process, questioning both the nature and making statements about perceived impacts,” CAC Vice Chair Timothy Weston said. “We need to get facts put together and out there so that we actually can evaluate and compare facts to allegations. I’m not going to make a judgment one way or the other until we get all those facts out there.”

Critics have called attention to the dependency on subsidies of technology like carbon capture to drive down emissions — as well as the question of whether the technology works at all.

“We are being impacted and kept in the dark,” Virginia Marcille-Kerslake said during the public comment period. “When will there be true community engagement? … we should all be skeptical and expect the worst.”

Anthony Hennen is a reporter for The Center Square news wire service, covering Pennsylvania, and co-host of Pennsylvania in Focus, a weekly podcast on America’s Talking Network. Previously, he worked for Philadelphia Weekly and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. He is managing editor of Expatalachians, a journalism project focused on the Appalachian region.

Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.

Anthony Hennen
Anthony Hennen
Anthony Hennen is a reporter for The Center Square news wire service, covering Pennsylvania, and co-host of Pennsylvania in Focus, a weekly podcast on America's Talking Network. Previously, he worked for Philadelphia Weekly and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. He is managing editor of Expatalachians, a journalism project focused on the Appalachian region.

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