EPA Takes Action on N.J. Complaint About Pennsylvania Plant Pollution

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday proposed a rule—granting a Clean Air Act petition filed by New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)—to limit sulfur dioxide emissions from a 420-MW coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania that it alleged was adversely impacting air quality in four New Jersey counties.

The proposed rule, when final, would require the Portland Generating Station in Northampton County to reduce its sulfur dioxide emissions by 81% over a three-year period. The plant, previously owned by Houston’s Reliant, is now operated by GenOn Energy.

“Under the Clean Air Act, when a facility impacts air quality in another state, the affected state can petition EPA and request that the facility be required to reduce its impact,” the agency said. New Jersey asked the EPA in a September 2010 petition to limit the Portland power plant’s sulfur dioxide emissions by requiring it to install a scrubber.

New Jersey also has an ongoing legal petition against GenOn that could require it to reduce its nitrogen oxide emissions. The state is also involved in two separate federal court cases that could require out-of-state power plants to curb pollution: one involves Pennsylvania-based Allegheny Energy and aims to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide at three power plants in western Pennsylvania; the other involves cuts of sulfur dioxide emissions from the Homer City Station in western Pennsylvania.

According to the New Jersey DEP, several air quality modeling analyses evaluating sulfur dioxide in the state showed that it far exceeded the EPA’s 1-hour national air quality standard and that the Portland plant, which sits on the banks of the Delaware River across from Knowlton, was the main source of emissions.

The “power plant emitted more than 30,000 tons of sulfur dioxide in 2009, which is more than all seven of New Jersey’s coal-fired power plants combined in that year,” the DEP said. The EPA said that after conducting its own modeling analyses, it found the same results.

“Typically a mix of sources from multiple locations is responsible for air quality issues in a specific area,” the EPA said. “However, in this case, the extensive analysis shows a clear connection between the emissions from the Portland plant alone and the elevated level of SO2 in New Jersey.”

The federal body will accept comments on the proposed rule until May 27, 2011. A public hearing is also scheduled on April 27, 2011 in Oxford, N.J.

Sources: POWERnews, EPA, New Jersey DEP

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