EPA PLEDGES TO RESPOND TO DEP PETITIONS
SEEKING TO REDUCE POLLUTION FROM PENSYLVANIA POWER PLANT
(10/P129) TRENTON - DEP Commissioner Bob Martin today commended the federal government for pledging to act by February on the State's petitions to force a coal-powered Pennsylvania power plant to dramatically reduce harmful emissions that are causing a public health concern in North Jersey, and to hold a public hearing in the most impacted area. But the Commissioner also vowed to ensure that federal officials keep their promise to move quickly on the matter.
The Commissioner, responding to a Nov. 10 letter from Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy, said he is pleased by EPA's written promise to expedite its response to New Jersey's concerns about RRI Energy's Portland, Pa. generating facility that is spewing pollutants across the Delaware River and directly into Warren County.
"This is an issue of critical importance regarding the health and welfare of our residents, who have a right to be protected from this out-of-state pollution,'' said Commissioner Martin. "We must work to ensure clean air for the residents of our state, and we are extremely pleased to see the EPA plans to step up and deal with this issue.''
"Such action, New Jersey believes, is mandated by the Clean Air Act and, indeed, is at the core of the EPA's responsibility to protect air quality, to safeguard public health and the environment,'' the Commissioner said in a letter sent today to the EPA.
In her letter, McCarthy said the EPA will formally respond to New Jersey's petitions regarding the Pennsylvania plant with an action plan by February 2011. EPA also will hold a public hearing, she wrote, at a venue to be suggested by the State. The DEP has pressed for a public session in Warren County, to afford the greatest opportunity for the residents to relate the affects of RRI Energy plant's pollution on their lives.
Commissioner Martin in May and September filed petitions under section 126 of the federal Clean Air Act, seeking prompt action by the federal EPA to force RRI Energy to reduce its harmful emissions.
The July supplemental petition showed that 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.
Sulfur dioxide emissions are known to cause a variety of adverse health effects, including asthma and respiratory failure, and environmental impacts such as acid rain.
The September petition also cites a tougher new National Ambient Air Quality Standard for sulfur dioxide that was adopted in June. That new federal standard of 75 parts per billion was established to help protect public health, including the health of "sensitive" populations such as asthmatics, children and the elderly.
In his response letter today, Commissioner Martin stated: "Although New Jersey is pleased that EPA recognizes the importance of the issues raised by the petitions, only prompt action will help clean the air that the people of Knowlton Township and Warren County breathe, and keep our streams, lakes and land free of pollution emitted from the Portland plant.''
While the EPA will formally seek a six-month extension to respond to the DEP's September filing, McCarthy wrote she does not expect the analysis to take that long and said the EPA would respond by February. Included would be a scientific, economic and policy issues analysis of the situation, with input from the public and regulated community.
"Please be assured that the agency views New Jersey's petitions under Section 126 of the Clean Air Act as a matter of great importance, and we are carefully weighing technical information supporting the petitions,'' McCarthy wrote.
RRI'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 the RRI Energy plant's 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 pollutant emissions, including hydrochloric acid, lead and mercury.
In a separate but related mater, the DEP currently is battling in federal court to require Pennsylvania-based Allegheny Energy Inc. and subsidiaries to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide at three power plants in western Pennsylvania. Prevailing wind carries pollutants from these plants to the east, causing ozone smog pollution and acid rain in New Jersey and four other states.
Full text of the 126 petitions on the Portland/RRI issue can be found at:
The full text of Commissioner Martin's Nov. 15 letter and EPA Assistant Administrator McCarthy's Nov. 10 letter can be found at: http://www.nj.gov/dep/baqp/