CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION PLEASED THAT PORTLAND, PA. COAL-FIRED ELECTRIC GENERATING UNITS WILL STOP POLLUTING NEW JERSEY'S AIR
(12/P20) TRENTON -GenOnEnergy's announcement today that it plans to shut down the coal-fired units at its Portland, Pa. power plant, which spews thousands of tons of pollutants across the Delaware River into New Jersey, is a win for cleaner air and better health for New Jersey residents, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said today.
But Commissioner Martin said that many questions remain unanswered about GenOn's plans for the plant and vowed to ensure the facility is held to the air pollution reduction requirements mandated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency as a result of the Christie Administration's successful Section 126 petition under the federal Clean Air Act.
"We're pleased to learn GenOn is shutting down its coal-fired units at the Portland plant by 2015,'' said Commissioner Martin. "But New Jersey will continue to act aggressively to force GenOn to meet the federal requirements to dramatically reduce harmful emissions by 60 percent by January 2013, and by at least 81 percent by 2015. Those steps are essential for the health and welfare of our residents.''
"There are still many unknowns about GenOn's plans,'' added Commissioner Martin. "Most importantly, the company has not withdrawn its legal challenge to New Jersey's successful Section 126 Clean Air Act petition that mandated substantial emissions reductions from this plant. It is our expectation that GenOn will fully comply with EPA's requirements arising from the 126 petition.''
In another important step that will improve New Jersey's air quality, GenOn also announced plans today to shut down seven other power plants in Pennsylvania and Ohio by 2015.
"GenOn's decision to eliminate coal-fired plants in other states that are upwind of New Jersey is good news in terms of improving air quality in our state,'' said DEP Assistant Commissioner for Environmental Management Jane Kozinski. "These upwind emissions reductions will help New Jersey meet national ambient air quality standards for ozone and sulfur dioxide, and will contribute to healthy air.''
Closer to home, GenOn also announced it would close a so-called "peaker unit'' located in Glen Gardner, N.J. That is the type of high-emissions-producing unit that is used on peak energy demand days in the hot summer months when ozone levels are highest.
Commissioner Martin noted that the DEP did not call for closure of the coal units at Portland but suggested installation of currently available air pollution controls, including a scrubber, at the Portland plant.
The EPA in October 2011 granted New Jersey's Section 126 petition to force dramatic reductions of air emissions from GenOn's Portland Generating Station in Northampton County, Pa. Sulfur dioxide (SO2), mercury and many other contaminants emitted into the air from this facility are carried in the atmosphere across the Delaware River to communities in Warren County, and also negatively impact air quality in Morris, Sussex and Hunterdon counties.
This was the first single-source 126 Petition the EPA has ever granted under the Clean Air Act -- the first time it has granted a petition for a power plant bordering another state.
In its petition acceptance, EPA required the power plant to reduce SO2 emissions by 60 percent within one year, and by 81 percent within three years. EPA provided the power plant with flexibility to choose the most cost-effective strategy for meeting these limits, including installing proven and widely available pollution control technologies.
The DEP's air monitoring station in Knowlton Township, Warren County, which is 1 mile from the Portland power plant, has measured the highest short-term sulfur dioxide levels in all of New Jersey, due to pollution emanating from the Portland generating station. The sulfur dioxide coming from the plant is known to contribute to a variety of adverse health effects, including asthma and respiratory failure, and environmental impacts such as acid rain.
The air pollution from this plant, however, is not limited to sulfur dioxide. The plant also emits high levels of nitrogen oxides, mercury, hydrochloric acid, lead and other air pollutants, including fine sulfate particles that travel on the wind throughout northern New Jersey, and to New York, Connecticut and beyond.
For more information on the DEP's efforts regarding the Clean Air Act Section 126 Petition, including a fact sheet, map, charts, and a photo of the Portland plant, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/docs/portland.html.