COMMISSIONER MARTIN WANTS EPA TO HASTEN ACTION ON
RRI ENERGY’S POWER PLANT POLLUTION ISSUE
(10/P67) TRENTON -Commissioner Bob Martin today called on the federal government to expedite action to reduce the amount of air pollutants spewing from a power plant in Pennsylvania, located just across the Delaware River from Knowlton Township in Warren County.
The Commissioner made his request after expressing disappointment with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which today announced a six-month delay in responding to the DEP's request to take prompt steps to reduce emissions coming from RRI Energy's coal-fired power plant.
“This is a longstanding air pollution issue affecting New Jersey residents that can be improved with strong federal action,’’ said Commissioner Martin, who is an avid proponent of improving the state’s poor air quality. “In view of the serious public health violation, the federal Environmental Protection Agency should be moving expeditiously to reduce pollution coming from this plant. Anything less is unacceptable.’’
Prevailing winds carry polluting releases from RRI Energy Mid-Atlantic Power Holdings’ Portland generating station in Upper Mount Bethel Township across the Delaware River and directly into New Jersey. The emissions are known to cause a variety of adverse health effects, including an exacerbation of asthma and respiratory conditions, and environmental impacts such as acid rain.
An air quality computer modeling analysis of sulfur dioxide emissions from this plant indicates they exceed levels allowed by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for protection of public health and welfare.
Previous efforts by New Jersey to have the EPA reduce the polluting air have been dismissed or rebuffed.
New Jersey on May 13 filed a request under the federal Clean Air Act to require the EPA to force the polluting plant, owned and operated by RRI Energy _formerly Reliant Energy_ to cut down on emissions. The EPA, which had 60 days to respond, today filed a statement in the Federal Register extending by six months its deadline, to Jan. 12, 2011.
The EPA contends the 60-day period was insufficient to complete a technical review, develop an adequate proposal and allow enough time for public notice and comment on the issue.
“We are disappointed in EPA’s decision to grant itself an extension to further review an obvious problem that is affecting public health in New Jersey,’’ said Commissioner Martin. “This pollution has been allowed to go on for years. The issue needs to be resolved more quickly.’’
Gov. Chris Christie in May called on the federal government to take prompt action, saying, “The magnitude of the plant's emissions and its close proximity make it a real threat to public health and safety in New Jersey.''
This is a not a new issue to the EPA. New Jersey has a pending Clean Air Act lawsuit against RRI Energy, alleging its Portland facility has emitted unlawful levels of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and fine particles. That suit is pending in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania.
More than 30,000 tons of sulfur dioxide are emitted annually by this one coal fired plant in Pennsylvania, an amount Commissioner Martin deemed to be “far too high.’’ In contrast, seven coal-fired power plants in New Jersey emit less than a total of 14,000 tons of sulfur dioxide annually, and requirements for more scrubbers will drop this level by more than half by 2014.
The DEP believes a scrubber should be installed to reduce RRI Energy’s emissions by at least 95 percent to less than 1,500 tons per year. Also, the emissions of fine particles must be reduced, said Commissioner Martin.
Improved sulfur dioxide and particle control also would reduce other hazardous air pollutant emissions, including hydrochloric acid, lead and mercury.
The Portland plant is situated on a 1,094-acre tract along the west bank of the Delaware River in Northampton County, Pa., some 10 miles southeast of Stroudsburg, Pa. and just 500 feet from New Jersey. Built in the 1950s and 1960s, the Portland plant's two coal-fired generating units have no air pollution controls for some contaminants, including sulfur dioxide and mercury, and have outdated controls for nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.
As a result, air contaminant emissions generated by the plant are very high. In fact, the Portland plant is the fifth highest emitter of sulfur dioxide per megawatt of power generated in the entire country, mostly due to its use of a high sulfur coal content and lack of a scrubber device.
The link to the EPA’s Federal Register notice is http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-16890.pdf
Full text of the DEP’s 126 petition can be found at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/baqp/petition/126petition.htm