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April 27, 2011

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


(11/P57) TRENTON - DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, at a public hearing in Warren County today, urged the federal Environmental Protection Agency to force a Pennsylvania coal-fired power plant to dramatically reduce huge volumes of harmful air pollutants it emits, and which have long caused public health concerns for thousands of North Jersey residents.

Testifying at an EPA hearing in Oxford, the Commissioner offered the Christie Administration's support for the EPA's proposal -- based on the DEP's Clean Air Act petition -- to require the power plant, operated by GenOn Energy (formerly Reliant or RRI Energy) in Portland, Pa., to immediately take steps to cut its sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions. New Jersey is seeking a 50 percent emissions reduction in the first year and 95 percent over three years, significantly reducing pollutants that can aggravate asthma and cause other respiratory difficulties.

"It is unacceptable to have a single power plant on New Jersey's border emitting more sulfur dioxide and mercury than all of New Jersey's coal-, oil- and gas-fired power plants combined,'' Commissioner Martin testified. "New Jersey is pleased that EPA is proposing action now to compel GenOn to reduce these harmful emissions. GenOn should take action now to stop causing this public health problem.''

Pollutants spewed out by the plant, which sits on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, just across from Knowlton Township in Warren County, drift over the river and directly impact air quality in parts of Warren, Sussex, Morris and Hunterdon counties. It also negatively affects residents of three Pennsylvania counties.

"New Jersey is not asking this power plant to do anything that our own State's coal-fired power plants have not already done,'' testified Commissioner Martin. "Portland should similarly take measures to reduce its harmful impact on public health.''

The EPA proposal seeks an 81 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions. The DEP recommended even tougher measures, to reduce SO2 emissions by 95 percent.

It is a priority of the Christie Administration to achieve improved air quality for all residents of New Jersey, said Commissioner Martin. In addition to the Portland petition, the State is battling out-of-state air pollution in two ongoing federal court cases dealing with power plants in western Pennsylvania that pour out huge volumes of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

Governor Christie last week issued an Executive Order to initiate a pilot project to reduce emissions from non-road diesel construction equipment to improve air quality, especially in urban areas. Also, the State has approved new rules requiring significant reductions in sulfur content for home heating oil and other types of fuel oil, and a DEP program has targeted polluting dry cleaning equipment, to remove PCEs from the air.

The 126 Petition filed by DEP in 2010 regarding the Portland matter included evidence to show that damaging sulfur dioxide pollution produced by the GenOn power plant adversely impacts much of North Jersey. 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.

Under RRI's operation, the power plant emitted more than 30,000 tons of sulfur dioxide in 2009, which is more than all of New Jersey's coal-fired power plants combined in that year.

The DEP believes modern air pollution controls, including a scrubber, should be installed to substantially reduce the Portland plant's emissions. Improved sulfur dioxide and particle control also would reduce other hazardous air pollutant emissions, including hydrochloric acid, lead and mercury.

For the full text of Commissioner Martin's testimony as well as supporting documents, including a fact sheet, map, charts, and a photo of the Portland plant, visit:

EPA will accept written comments on the State's Clean Air Act 126 Petition until May 27. The full text of New Jersey's 126 petitions on the Portland/RRI issue can be found at:



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Last Updated: April 27, 2011