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Environmental Enforcement: EPA Proposes Limit on Pa. Power Plant After NJ Complaint

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed restrictions on sulfur dioxide emissions from a Pennsylvania power plant, in response to a petition by the state of New Jersey.

When final, the proposed rule would require the Portland Generating Station in Northampton County, Pa., to reduce its sulphur dioxide emissions by 81 percent over a three-year period.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection petitioned the EPA in September 2010 to find that the Portland power plant is impacting the state’s air quality and to require the facility to reduce its sulphur dioxide emissions.

Exposure to sulphur dioxide can aggravate asthma and cause other respiratory difficulties. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to these effects.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, when a facility impacts air quality in another state, the affected state can petition the EPA and request that the facility be required to reduce its impact. The EPA says that these emission reductions can be achieved using proven and widely available pollution control methods.

New Jersey conducted several air quality modeling analyses to evaluate sulphur dioxide levels in the state. These analyses show that the level of sulphur dioxide in the air is exceeding the agency’s one-hour national air quality standard and that the Portland plant is the main source of emissions, the EPA said. The federal agency also conducted its own modeling analyses and found the same results.

Typically a mix of sources from multiple locations is responsible for air quality issues in a specific area. However, in this case, the extensive analysis shows a clear connection between the emissions from the Portland plant alone and the elevated level of sulphur dioxide in the New Jersey counties, the EPA said.

A rule to prohibit such pollution across state lines was ordered by a U.S. appelate court in 2008 but has not yet been implemented.

The EPA’s so-called “Transport Rule” would cut air pollution – including sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide – drifting across 31 eastern states and Washington D.C.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper wrote to the agency earlier this month asking for the rule to be implemented in final form by no later than June 30 of this year. This would ensure that downwind states begin to see improved air quality starting next year, the attorneys general said.

In July 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a decision supporting the position that the EPA had to require reductions in the interstate transport of air pollution that would enable downwind states such as New York to meet their own requirements under the Clean Air Act.

The court then sent the prior rule back to the agency to comply with this mandate. On June 6, 2010, the EPA issued its revised proposed Transport Rule to respond to the court’s order. The attorneys general are seeking finalization of this proposed rule.

Picture credit: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

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One thought on “Environmental Enforcement: EPA Proposes Limit on Pa. Power Plant After NJ Complaint

  1. It is about time this happens to protect the health and environment of neighbors.
    Too bad corporations don’t have the right tools to practice “neighborliness and good housekeeping”.
    Perhaps corporate lawyers and accountants should learn a bit about ethics.

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