Eastern Metal Recycling Terminal L.L.C., with a heap of crushed scrap at the foot of the Platt Memorial Bridge in South Philadelphia, has received a setback in its move to Eddystone.
The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, on behalf of the administration of Gov. Corbett, rescinded $31.1 million promised by Gov. Rendell to develop a pier on the Delaware River.
The scrap recycler, formerly Camden Iron & Metal Inc., will spend $60 million to transform the vacant Foamex Industrial Inc. property in Eddystone, with seven buildings, into a modern scrap-metal shredding operation.
The loss of state money "has put us again behind the eight ball," said Eastern Metal president Joseph W. Balzano. "We have all intentions of moving forward with the shredder installation."
Balzano said his board would look into alternative financing to develop the dock. "We are still going ahead with the project," he said.
The company employs more than 350 in the region, and 150 in Pennsylvania, he said.
Camden Iron, purchased in 2007 by European Metal Recycling Ltd., looked at sites since 1998 to combine the metal-shredding operation at 26th Street and Penrose Avenue with its business shipping a million tons of scrap iron a year out of Beckett Street Terminal in Camden.
Scrap is now trucked to Camden from Penrose Avenue.
The Foamex site was a good fit because of its size and access to water and rail, and it is zoned heavily industrial. In Delaware County, the metal crushing will move indoors. Scrap will no longer be heaped along a highway, as it is now along the Platt Bridge.
The move has been opposed by some Eddystone borough residents concerned about traffic, noise, possible pollution, and chemicals associated with shredding and recycling.
After hearings and local meetings, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in June issued permits to operate the metal shredding and recycling in Eddystone, but placed conditions, including additional daily air monitoring, enhanced dust control, certification from scrap suppliers that deliveries will not contain restricted materials, and monitoring of contaminants in storm-water runoff to the Delaware River.
The latest twist came Oct. 7 in a letter from PRPA chairman Charles G. Kopp, who was appointed by Corbett.
"Regrettably I must inform you that I have learned that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will not be advancing the funds which Camden Iron & Metal has requested," Kopp wrote. "The nationwide economic slowdown of the past three years has created serious constraints on the Commonwealth's budget."
In March 2010, Camden Iron, which has owned the yard since the 1980s, reducing cars and washing machines to mounds of scrap, purchased the former 63-acre Foamex site at 1500 E. 2d St. for about $13.5 million.
To help with capital improvements for pier and port development at the new site, the Rendell administration authorized a $31.1 million grant to be funneled through the PRPA, a state agency.
In May 2010, the PRPA board voted to support Camden Iron, but made release of the money conditional on the company's getting all necessary permits from government agencies.
Gregory V. Iannarelli, the port authority's chief counsel, said this week that the state funds "had a restriction" that Camden Iron would relocate to Girard Point on the Schuylkill.
"When they stopped looking at the site, and went to the Foamex site, reallocating the funding would have to occur to remove the restriction that came with Girard Point," Iannarelli said.
"That's when the new administration took a closer look and decided they did not want to invest the funds in that manner. The money remains with the state in the capital budget. It never touched our account."
Balzano said the PRPA, when Rendell was governor, told the scrap recycler "there was no problem with reallocating the money."
"They told us that Eddystone fell into the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority port district, and that the site was approved for that," Balzano said.
"The money was given to us originally for Girard Point. We came to them and said, 'We can't use it for Girard Point. There's not enough space.' So how about this Eddystone property? They said, 'No problem.' "
The firm, founded in 1929 by the Bantivoglio family of South Jersey, has purchased state-of-the-art shredders, now in storage awaiting the new location.
"We started on this project in 2005," said Balzano. Losing the state money was "always a risk, but when you are told that it's there, and has been appropriated, you go on that as good faith."