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May 30, 2024

Amazon gets zoning approval for massive data center campus in Luzerne County

The project would be located near two nuclear power plants. The company says it would create up to 600 jobs.

Development Amazon

Amazon plans to build a data center campus for its Amazon Web Services subsidiary in Salem Township, Luzerne County over the next decade. The campus is expected to create 600 jobs.

Amazon has received zoning approval to construct a new data center campus near two nuclear power plants in Luzerne County. The campus would be for Amazon Web Services, the subsidiary that leads the world in providing cloud computing services to a wide range of organizations.

The multibillion dollar project is planned for land near the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station reactors in Salem Township – about 130 miles north of Philadelphia. In March, Amazon purchased an existing, nuclear-powered data center at the site from Talen Energy and sought to have about 1,600 acres rezoned to build another 15 data center buildings.

Amazon anticipates the project will create up to 600 jobs. The company's primary data center for Amazon Web Services is in Virginia.

Amazon officials said the choice of the land was partly motivated by its proximity to the nuclear reactors and a nearby natural gas power plant. The two nuclear reactors are slated to be decommissioned in 2042 and 2044, although they could have their licenses extended.

As part of the redevelopment, the township's board of supervisors previously agreed to give Amazon a 10-year tax break on the project at a 70% discount. Once the incentive expires, the township anticipates the project will generate roughly $7 million in local tax revenue.

In 2018, Amazon had included Philadelphia and Pittsburgh among 20 finalist cities for its second headquarters, dubbed HQ2. The company touted the possibility of 50,000 jobs and a $5 billion investment, but ultimately selected a pair of sites in Arlington, Virginia and New York City. Amazon later canceled its plans in New York City amid backlash over tax breaks for the project. The company has only completed the first phase of its project in Arlington. Construction of the second phase — an ambitious building called the Helix — was paused last year amid a company evaluation of its hybrid work policies. Work also was paused on office projects in Nashville, Tennessee, and Bellevue, Washington — not far from Amazon's Seattle headquarters.

When Philadelphia fell short in its bid for HQ2, some experts suggested the project might have created affordability issues in the city and crowded out other companies concerned about long-term competition for workers.

At the public hearing in Salem Township, some residents reportedly shared concerns that shifting from agricultural to industrial zoning would devalue their land. Some said Amazon had approached them with offers to purchase their land to expand the area of the campus.

Amazon Web Services accounts for about one-third of the global market share for cloud computing, followed by Microsoft's Azure and Google Cloud among the biggest providers. This week, Amazon Web Services appointed longtime sales and marketing executive Matt Garman as its new CEO and revealed the company is in talks to invest billions of dollars in Italy to expand its growing presence in Europe.