Coal Units in New Jersey Face Shutdown or Conversion to Natural Gas

Owners of the 1962-built B.L. England Generating Station in New Jersey’s Cape May County will shutter the plant’s 113-MW coal-fired Unit 1 by 2013 and convert two other units to natural gas under the terms of an administrative consent order with New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The order fits in with New Jersey’s energy plan, which envisions a gradual phase-out of coal power.

RC Cape May Holdings LLC, which purchased the 450-MW plant from Atlantic Electric, Conectiv, and Pepco Holdings in 2007, will minimize emissions at Unit 1 until ceasing unit operations in 2013, shut down and convert the 155-MW coal-fired Unit 2 into a combined cycle natural gas plant, and repower the 148-MW residual fuel oil–burning Unit 3 with natural gas by May 2016, the DEP said in a statement on Thursday.

The DEP and the plant’s former owners had entered into an administrative consent order in January 2006 that resolved DEP claims for injunctive relief and civil penalties arising out of alleged violations of the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) requirements of Part C of Title I of the Clean Air Act and other provisions in the New Jersey Air Pollution Control Act. According to the DEP, the previous owners “did not make pollution-control upgrades as required by the federal Clean Air Act when they made significant upgrades to operational features of the plant.” When RC Cape May Holdings bought the plant, it agreed to meet the performance standards of the 2006 administrative consent order.

The closure of one coal unit and conversion of the others would “significantly improve air quality while ensuring continued energy reliability for the southern shore region,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said in a statement. According to the agency, the two coal-fired units at the B.L. England plant are the last coal-fired units in the state without state-of-the art pollution control equipment.

Due to the inherent efficiencies of combined cycle natural gas electricity generation, the overall capacity of the plant will remain at 450 MW and could increase to about 570 MW, said Jim Maiz, senior vice president for RC Cape May Holdings.

“We wish to thank all the state agencies and local officials for their ongoing support of our efforts to identify and implement the most fitting clean-energy redevelopment plan for B.L. England,” Maiz said. “This transformative solution provides the best alignment with the overall objectives of all stakeholders, and we’re committed to seeing it through.”

The DEP said the order “fits in with goals” of Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s Energy Master Plan, which promotes development of renewable energy and the use of natural gas as a “cleaner less carbon-intensive fossil fuel.” As well as reportedly pledging to oppose the opening of any new coal-fired plants in the state, the Christie administration’s policies include mandating the closure by 2015 of polluting peak-demand power plants that do not make emission-curbing upgrades.

New Jersey has been gradually phasing out coal as a fuel source, the DEP said. Only six coal-fired units are still operating at four other power plants, but all are equipped with pollution controls.

Sources: POWERnews, New Jersey DEP, RC Cape May Holdings
—Sonal Patel, POWER senior writer (@POWERmagazine)

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