Get to Know... The Northeastern Group

By Pat Beaudet, Sylvanian Team; Southeastern Pennsylvania Group

Good news for the 1,100 Sierra Club members in northeastern Pennsylvania (Lackawanna, Susquehanna, Pike, Wayne, Wyoming, Bradford, Luzerne and Sullivan counties):  a handful of local active members has taken on the task of re-establishing what was the Northeastern Group of the Pennsylvania Chapter.  For Sierra Club members living in these counties, it means meetings, programs, outings and volunteer opportunities.  A Membership Meeting to introduce members to the group and upcoming events is scheduled for April 15. Also included will be a round-table discussion on equity issues.  See details in Outings and Programs below.

An Executive Committee of nine members was elected in January for a two-year term. They are responsible for all  functions of the group from finances to outings to making political endorsements.  As an official Sierra Club entity, the Northeastern Group is eligible for funding and can speak publicly on behalf of the Sierra Club.

Originally, there was a Northeastern Group formed in 1979 which disbanded around 2010 due to lack of volunteer involvement.  When the group disbanded, local members who wanted to remain active in the environmental problems of the area, worked as a kind of loose association but stayed connected to the leaders and staff of the Pennsylvania Chapter. Last year, they were encouraged to re-establish the Northeastern Group because doing so had many advantages, as stated above.  At the end of this article, you will find a complete list of the Executive Committee (ex-com) members and their various roles

The new Northeastern Group (NEPA) ex-com has set an ambitious agenda for 2024. It brings together several of the area's environmental groups in working toward a safer, healthier environment for the surrounding area's future. Below are some of its continued ongoing group efforts as well as accomplishments and successes in battling potential environmental hazards.


Lackawanna Energy Center

Northeastern Pennsylvania is a beautiful, mountainous area once valued for its large coal deposits.  While coal-fired power plants continue to exist, what is attracting industry to Pennsylvania today is the cheap natural gas from Marcellus Shale. Invenergy Co. has the ability to produce energy from both natural gas and renewables, yet continues to choose natural gas over the renewable energy that should be built. The NEPA Group works with Citizens for a Healthy Jessup (CFHJ). Founding members (including Jeff Smith, a Pennsylvania Chapter leader) of CFHJ formed a nonprofit organization which pulled community members together to fight against the construction of a huge natural-gas power plant by Invenergy named the Lackawanna Energy Center  on the side of a ridge overlooking the residential town of Jessup, less than a half mile away. Even though the construction occurred, NEPA and CFHJ continue to hold Invenergy accountable for any environmental issues and concerns that arise. This natural gas plant is currently the fourth largest polluter in Pennsylvania.  This article from the Center for Public Integrity recounts in depth the years' long struggle between Invenergy and the community which opposed the building of the Lackawanna Energy Center.

Keystone Sanitary Landfill

NEPA Group also works with the Friends of Lackawanna (FOL), a Pennsylvania non-profit committed to protecting the health and safety of the local community, as well as the regional image and the environment. The current campaign is to stop the proposed Phase III expansion of the Keystone Sanitary Landfill, Inc., which is already one of the largest landfills in the country. This expansion will allow another 94 million tons of garbage, including radioactive fracking waste, to be dumped in the middle of a thriving residential community next to homes, schools and parks further polluting the region’s air and water and compromising the health of citizens and their quality of life, as well as ruining aesthetic views throughout the area. The landfill expansion violates every tenant of the Environmental Rights Amendment in the Pennsylvania constitution which states that citizens have a right to clean air, clean water and aesthetic views. Local School Boards, Borough Councils, State Representative Kyle Mullins, Senator Bob Casey and Congressman Matt Cartwright are opposed to the expansion. This 2016 article from NPR's Keystone Crossroads tells the story of a generational divide.  Unfortunately, in 2021, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection approved the expansion in full. FOL & Sierra Club are appealing the decision before the Environmental Hearing Board.  The Sierra Club is intervening in the litigation with attorneys, experts, members in standing and funding.

Fell Township, Elizabeth Township

In Fell Township, NEPA is currently fighting a bill that would allow construction of experimental mine reclamation. In Elizabeth Township, after years of community opposition to building a dirty fossil-fuel-burning power plant and litigation by a team of environmental groups to challenge its permit’s weak pollution controls, Invenergy Co. has abandoned its proposal to build the Allegheny Energy Center (AEC) south of Pittsburgh in Elizabeth Township, PA. The announcement came almost three months after it paused the multi-week trial in the appeal brought by the Environmental Integrity Project,  Clean Air Council, and PennFuture on behalf of CAC, PennFuture, and Mountain Watershed Association challenging the legality of AEC’s air permit. The gas-fired power plant would have been one of the largest and most polluting in Pennsylvania, and would not have included any renewable energy despite the community’s wishes and Invenergy’s experience with renewables at other sites.

Renovo Energy Center

The Bechtel Corp. is backing out of its plans to develop a multi-million dollar natural-gas fired electric generating plant on the former railyard in Renovo Borough, dashing the community’s hopes for revitalization and private investment. Faced with ongoing appeals from environmental groups, Renovo Energy Center has decided to discontinue its plan for a $1 billion gas to electric power plant that was to be built in the borough at the former Renovo Industrial Park. The decision comes after years of legal battles and pushback to the proposed gas-fired plant. Most recently, the Clean Air Council, PennFuture and the Center for Biological Diversity challenged the project’s air permit approved by the Department of Environmental Protection.


On Saturday, April 6, a 2-hour hike will take place at Browning Beaver Meadow Sanctuary in Equinunk PA.  Please visit the registration page for more information and to register. 

An impressive array of Earth Month cleanups has been arranged by Outing Chair Fawn Contreras.  Co-sponsored by Valley County Library and NEPA Group, ten cleanup events are scheduled in April and May.  Partners on each clean-up include Citizens for a Healthy Jessup, Friends of Lackawanna, and others. To get the details on each, visit NEPA'S website.

NEPA’s agenda for 2024 includes planning outings in each county, so as to serve all members of NEPA.  Stay tuned.  

NE group leaders are kicking off the year with an exciting introduction to upcoming outings and issues, the NEPA Member Meeting & Equity Roundtable on Mon, Apr 15, 2024 from 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM.  Details can be found here.  Registration in advance is requested.


Kudos and more to the following members who stepped up to re-establish the NEPA group and assume leadership roles.  Members are encouraged to get involved.  Contact us here.

Chair – Marlene Sebastianelli
Vice Chair/Treasurer - Rella Scessalati
Political Chairs – Sarah Helcoski & Rachel Galati
Membership Chairs – Sharon Cuff & Vince Amico
Outings Chair/Secretary – Fawn Conteras
Conservation Chair - John Mellow
Equity Chair -Rashida Lovely
Chapter Delegate - Sharon Cuff

This blog was included as part of the April 2024 Sylvanian newsletter. Please click here to check out more articles from this edition!