DEP wants to intervene in Pa. power plant’s EPA challenge

TRENTON – The state Department of Environmental Protection filed a motion today in federal court to intervene in a Pennsylvania power plant’s challenge to a federal Clean Air Act permit that, it said, requires it to substantially cut air pollution in New Jersey.

The power plant, located in Portland, Pa., releases thousands of tons of pollutants a day into several North Jersey counties, said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said.

The state is seeking permission from the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals to intervene in response to the power company’s appeal of the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s decision in the matter.

The EPA granted DEP’s request last year to force GenOn Energy, owner of the Portland plant, to cut emissions 60 percent by 2013, and by at least 81 percent in three years.

“It is a priority of the Christie Administration to improve air quality in New Jersey and that includes continuing to target out-of-state sources of air pollution,” Martin said in a statement. “We support EPA in this challenge for the benefit of air quality in New Jersey and for the health of our residents.

“The amount of emissions coming from the Portland plant is staggering,” Martin added. “The continuing negative effects on public health cannot be tolerated. We intend to press the courts to force GenOn to meet Clean Air Act requirements.”

GenOn was not immediately available for comment.

The DEP said that in 2010, the Portland plant emitted more than 30,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), plus mercury and other contaminants into the air across the Delaware River and directly onto residents of Warren County. It also damages air quality in Morris, Sussex and Hunterdon counties, and also in Pennsylvania, DEP stated.

In 2011, the DEP’s air monitoring station in Knowlton Township, Warren County, which is 1 mile from the Portland, Pa. power plant, recorded the highest short-term sulfur dioxide levels in New Jersey, due to emissions from the Portland generating station. The sulfur dioxide coming from the plant is known to cause a variety of adverse health effects, including asthma and respiratory failure, and environmental impacts such as acid rain and decreased visibility, the department said.  

Martin said he wants modern air pollution controls, including a scrubber, to be installed to substantially reduce the Portland plant’s emissions.

For a copy of DEP’s motion to intervene in the Section 126 Petition appeal, visit: http://nyoobserver.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/petition201202061.pdf

Full text of New Jersey’s 126 petitions on the Portland/RRI issue can be found at:

http://www.nj.gov/dep/baqp/petition/126petition.htm

DEP wants to intervene in Pa. power plant’s EPA challenge