Pennsylvania Plant Agrees to Phase Out Coal

In a move designed to resolve a Sierra Club lawsuit before it was even filed, Talen Energy agreed to operate its Brunner Island Steam Electric Station, a 1,411-MW plant located in York Haven, Pennsylvania, only on natural gas during the ozone season beginning in 2023 and to cease coal operations altogether by the end of 2028.

“This was a dirty and polluting coal plant that needed to clean up its act in more ways than one. Beyond significant air pollution violations due to legislative loopholes, the plant also dumped toxic pollutants into a major waterway—the Susquehanna,” Patrick Grenter, Sierra Club’s senior campaign representative for Pennsylvania and Maryland, said in a press release. “This settlement phases out the primary source of all of those community pollution problems: the coal burned at the plant.”

The Sierra Club served a Notice of Intent (NOI) to sue Talen Energy on February 14 under various environmental statutes related to the station’s coal operations. The NOI starts a mandatory waiting period before an actual suit can be filed. However, the settlement between the parties addresses all the issues raised in the NOI.

The Brunner Island station currently has dual-fuel capability. It can operate on coal, natural gas, or a combination of the two.

In accordance with the agreement, Brunner Island will operate only on natural gas from May 1 through September 30 (the ozone season) beginning January 1, 2023, with some limited exceptions for emergencies, and will discontinue coal use after December 31, 2028. The settlement will limit CO2 emissions to 6.8 million tons/year during the phase-out period, and beginning in 2023, will reduce NOx emission rates during ozone season by about two-thirds compared to 2016 levels when burning coal, the Sierra Club said.

The settlement will be maintained in a consent decree, filed concurrently with the complaint. The consent decree will be reviewed and approved by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and fully resolves all of the Sierra Club’s claims against Brunner Island.

“We believe that the removal of the coal burning component is a step forward in cleaning up the region and making our communities healthier,” Grenter said. “We will continue to work toward a transition to clean, renewable energy as quickly as possible.”

Aaron Larson, executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)