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September 17, 2010

Contact: Lawrence Ragonese (609) 292-2994
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795


(10/P97) TRENTON - DEP Commissioner Bob Martin has again formally asked the federal government to force the owners of a coal-powered Pennsylvania power plant to dramatically reduce harmful air emissions that are causing an even greater public health concern in North Jersey than originally known, he announced today.

Commissioner Martin today signed a supplemental petition under Section 126 of the federal Clean Air Act, seeking prompt action by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to force RRI Energy to reduce harmful emissions spewing from its Portland, Pa. generating facility and across the Delaware River and directly into Warren County.

Sulfur dioxide pollution pouring out of the power plant is more damaging and widespread than previously believed, extending into a much larger area of Warren County and into portions of Sussex, Morris and Hunterdon Counties, according to the petition signed by Commissioner Martin.

The supplemental petition includes a trajectory analysis that shows the plant's emissions caused high sulfur dioxide levels at the DEP's ambient air monitoring station in Chester, Morris County, which is located 21 miles east of the Portland plant. Closer to the RRI plant, the levels are much higher, about 10 times the new federal health standard.

"We now understand the emissions are more damaging to the public health and welfare than previously believed, and are harming more New Jersey residents over a wider section of our State,'' said Commissioner Martin. "Our residents have to a right to be protected from this health risk. We need the federal government to step up and deal with this serious air pollution issue now.''

Commissioner Martin called on the EPA to hold the required Section 126 hearing in Warren County, which is most directly affected by adverse impacts of the air pollution.

"We have a good working relationship in general with the EPA and expect them to be responsive to our petition on this matter,'' said Commissioner Martin.

The supplemental filing identifies far greater impacts to New Jersey's air quality and the health of its residents than was initially documented in an initial May 12 Section 126 petition sent to the EPA. It also cites a tougher new federal National Ambient Air Quality Standard for sulfur dioxide that was adopted in June by the EPA.

That new federal standard of 75 parts per billion is designed to help protect the public health, including the health of "sensitive'' populations such as asthmatics, children and the elderly. Sulfur dioxide emissions, he noted, can cause a variety of adverse health effects, including asthma and respiratory failure, and environmental impacts such as acid rain.

RRI Energy's 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. The DEP believes controls, such as a scrubber, should be installed to reduce those emissions by at least 95 percent to less than 1,500 tons per year.

Improved sulfur dioxide and particle control also would reduce other hazardous air emissions, including hydrochloric acid, lead and mercury, said Commissioner Martin.

Gov. Chris Christie in May called on the federal government to take prompt action, saying, "The magnitude of the plant's emissions and its close proximity make it a real threat to public health and safety in New Jersey.''

The Portland plant is situated on a 1,094-acre tract along the west bank of the Delaware River in Northampton County, Pa., some 10 miles southeast of Stroudsburg, Pa. and just 500 feet from New Jersey. Built in the 1950s and 1960s, the Portland plant's two coal-fired generating units have no air pollution controls for some contaminants, including sulfur dioxide and mercury, and have outdated controls for nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

As a result, air contaminant emissions generated by the plant are very high. In fact, the Portland plant is the fifth highest emitter of sulfur dioxide per megawatt of power generated in the entire country, mostly due to its use of a high sulfur coal content and lack of a scrubber device.

Full text of the previous Section 126 petition and documentation can be found at:

Today's filing will be available at that site later this afternoon.



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Last Updated: September 20, 2010