MAC: Mines and Communities

New Jersey Sues U.s. Epa Over Pennsylvania Power Plant Pollution

Published by MAC on 2007-02-09

New Jersey Sues U.S. EPA Over Pennsylvania Power Plant Pollution

TRENTON, New Jersey, (ENS)

9th February 2007

New Jersey Attorney General Stuart Rabner today filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, for failing to act on a petition from New Jersey objecting to a proposed operating permit for a coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania.

"This facility is directly across the river from New Jersey and has emitted more than 30,000 tons of sulfur dioxide annually. As a result, it contributes to New Jersey’s inability to attain its clean air goals for sulfur dioxide," said Governor Jon Corzine said. "We will take every action we can to force EPA to do its job and to protect the citizens of this state."

Filed with the U.S. District Court in Trenton, the lawsuit also names as a defendant EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson. The lawsuit charges that EPA has violated the federal Clean Air Act by failing to grant or deny a petition filed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in July 2006. The petition objected to Pennsylvania’s proposed issuance of a revised operating permit for a coal-fired plant known as the Portland Generating Station.

The Portland facility is owned by Reliant Energy Mid-Atlantic Power Holdings, and is located directly across the Delaware River from Warren County, New Jersey.

The Portland plant is located upwind of New Jersey’s Highlands, and prevailing winds carry its air pollution directly into the state.

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA must grant or deny the New Jersey petition within 60 days of its filing. The DEP petition was filed on July 21, 2006, but EPA has yet to respond to it. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa Jackson called the EPA’s failure to act on the New Jersey petition "unconscionable."

"The EPA continues to show little concern for the environmental and public health issues we have raised regarding the Portland Generating Station," said Jackson. "With today’s filing, we are putting the EPA on notice that we will not tolerate being ignored."

DEP’s petition to the EPA objected to Pennsylvania’s proposed approval of a revised permit for the Portland Generating Station because:

The Portland plant made modifications allowing it to increase its emissions of air pollutants without installing the pollution controls required under the Clean Air Act. As a result, New Jersey claims, a compliance schedule with an enforceable sequence of compliance milestones that will eventually lead to the elimination of all violations is needed in the permit.

The permit lacks operational limits called heat input limits, and would allow the Portland plant to exceed air quality standards set by the Clean Air Act.

Heat input is a measure of the amount of coal burned each hour and limits on heat input are necessary to avoid excessive hourly emissions for many air contaminants, for example particulate matter - which can include dust, dirt, soot and smoke - and nitrogen oxides, one of the main ingredients in the formation of ground-level ozone.

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