Governor Chris Christie called the federal Environmental Protection Agency‟s approval of New Jersey‟s Clean Air Act petition a major step towards significantly reducing huge volumes of harmful air pollutants from a coal-fired Pennsylvania power plant. The Christie Administration‟s Section 126 Petition, filed in March 2010, will reduce air emissions from the GenOn Energy power plant in Portland, Pennsylvania, which currently spews more than 30,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), plus mercury and many other contaminants into the air across the Delaware River and directly onto residents living in communities in Warren County, and negatively impacting air quality in Morris, Sussex and Hunterdon counties.
This is the first single-source 126 Petition the federal agency has granted -- the first time it has granted a petition for a power plant bordering another state. It will require the Portland Generating Station to significantly cut its SO2 emissions within three years, with a portion of those cuts happening by the end of the first year. In accepting the Department of Environmental Protection‟s (DEP) petition, the EPA will require the power plant to reduce emissions by 60 percent within one year, and to seek an 81 percent reduction within three years. It has provided the power plant with flexibility to choose the most cost-effective strategy for meeting these limits, including installing proven and widely available pollution control technologies.
“This is a major step towards our continuing commitment to improving air quality for all residents of New Jersey,” said Governor Christie. “The EPA made clear that harmful emissions from a Pennsylvania coal-fired power plant will not be tolerated. By giving our request serious consideration and partnering with us to act, we are providing real solutions to a matter that has long been a public health concern for so many of our residents. Now that the decision has been made, it is imperative that we deal promptly with the public health and environmental problems caused by this Pennsylvania facility, which is one of the top five generators of sulfur dioxide among power plants in the nation and which emits more mercury than all of New Jersey„s coal fired power plants combined.”
The DEP‟s air monitoring station in Knowlton Township, which is 1 mile from the Portland power plant, has measured the highest short-term sulfur dioxide levels in New Jersey, due to pollution emanating 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. The air pollution from this plant, however, is not limited to sulfur dioxide. The plant also emits a high levels of nitrogen oxides, mercury, hydrochloric acid, lead and other air pollutants, including fine sulfate particles that travel on the wind throughout northern New Jersey, and to New York, Connecticut and beyond.
“This has had a major negative impact on air quality and public health for so many of our residents for too many years,‟‟ said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “Strong action by the EPA will help greatly to reduce these harmful emissions, and the DEP will closely monitor this effort to ensure this process moves along as swiftly as possible. Now we are glad to have EPA‟s commitment to follow up on its promise to compel GenOn to reduce these harmful emissions. We thank the EPA for this precedent setting decision.”
Testifying at an EPA hearing in Oxford, earlier this year, Commissioner Martin offered the Christie Administration‟s support for the EPA‟s proposal, calling it 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. It is a priority of the Administration to achieve improved air quality for all residents of New Jersey. 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. The Christie Administration strongly believes modern air pollution controls, including a scrubber, should be installed to substantially reduce the Portland plant‟s emissions. Commissioner Martin stressed that emissions reductions can be met with existing technology, as is required for New Jersey coal-fired power plants.