Opponents of a 1,500-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in Jessup have long said it would open the door for similar plants up and down the Midvalley. Times-Tribune Staff Writer Jon O’Connell‘s story today suggests critics like Citizens for a Healthy Jessup weren’t just blowing smoke.

Organized as Archbald Energy Partners LLC, Alberta, Canada-based EmberClear Corp. and New Jersey-based DCO Energy LLC — have designs on building a 485-megawatt natural-gas-fired power plant in Archbald.  It would be erected about 1½ miles from the proposed Jessup plant, a project of Chicago-based Invenergy LLC. The plant proposed for Archbald is smaller than the one planned for Jessup, but it would certainly add to the impact on air quality and property values

A key distinction (with a debatable difference) is that the Jessup plant would be built on tax-free land. Invenergy has offered $1 million annually as a payment in lieu of taxes — a paltry sum considering the billions the company is sure to reap over the estimated 40-year life of the plant. Archbald residents can at least find some comfort in that the plant proposed for their borough would be built on taxable land and could mean a windfall that ensures lower property taxes, and perhaps even tax cuts.

But at what cost? The Midvalley is a tight belt of communities cinched across the paunchy waistline of Lackawanna County. What happens in any one of those communities impacts every one of their neighbors. The close constituencies of Northeast Pennsylvania have long resisted the notion of cooperative action in the collective interest. The push for a pair of power plants fewer than two miles apart in a densely populated area is a clarion call for regional thinking and coordinated response.

We are all in this together. Until we aren’t.