MAC: Mines and Communities

New Jersey sues over Pennsylvania power plant pollution

Published by MAC on 2007-12-18

New Jersey sues over Pennsylvania power plant pollution

18th December 2007

by ENS

TRENTON, New Jersey- Because air pollution recognizes no borders, the state of New Jersey today filed suit against the owner of a coal-fired power plant across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania.

Alleging that Reliant Energy MidAtlantic Power Holdings modified its coal-fired Portland Generating Station in Pennsylvania in ways that increased emissions, New Jersey filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania.

The lawsuit alleges that Reliant has violated the federal Clean Air Act by modifying and operating the Portland power plant without required pollution control equipment and construction permits and without the best available pollution control technology.

The Portland plant is located in Northampton County less than a mile from New Jersey's western border. It is upwind and directly across the Delaware River from New Jersey's Warren County, inhabited by about 105,000 people.

"The Portland Generating Station continues to operate each day in violation of federal law, and pollutants from the plant continue to carry across the Delaware River on prevailing winds, harming the air breathed by New Jersey residents," said Attorney General Anne Milgram.

A July 2007 report by the Environmental Integrity Project entitled "Dirty Kilowatts: America's Most Polluting Power Plants," ranks Portland as number five in terms of having the highest sulfur dioxide emission rate per megawatt generated in the entire country.

Enough is enough," said Lisa Jackson, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, DEP. "It seems that we cannot rely on Reliant, except to put the public in harm's way.

The fact is, while Reliant continues to shirk its environmental responsibilities, New Jersey residents are being exposed to a host of pollutants, and we simply will not let this go on," Jackson said.

New Jersey's lawsuit asks the court to enjoin Reliant from operating the Portland plant unless it is in compliance with the Clean Air Act.

The complaint also asks that Reliant be required to install and operate "best available" control technologies for each pollutant.

The lawsuit also asks that Reliant be ordered to conduct an audit of its operations to determine if any additional plant modifications have occurred that are not included among those discussed in the state's complaint.

The lawsuit seeks assessment of "an appropriate civil penalty" against Reliant and the other defendants who are previous owners of the power plant, and asks the court to award New Jersey legal fees and costs associated with bringing the lawsuit.

New Jersey tried to address the increased emissions from the Portland power plant through a variety of legal actions over the past year.

In December 2006, the state filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, for violating the Clean Air Act by not responding to a petition from the DEP that objected to a proposed operating permit for the plant.

When federal agency had not acted on the petition by February, the state filed suit contending that the agency was not doing its job, and that its failure to act on New Jersey's objection was contributing to the state's inability to attain its clean air goals.

On June 20, the EPA issued a final order denying the New Jersey petition request. The state responded by filing an appeal of the EPA ruling in the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. That appeal is still pending, as is a petition for reconsideration of the original denial filed with EPA.

"This facility poses an environmental danger, and our concerns have not been given due consideration by the EPA," Attorney General Milgram said.

The state's petition for reconsideration before the EPA asserts that increases in air emissions at the Portland Generating Station would violate national air quality standards designed to protect public health in the vicinity of the plant both in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.

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