New Jersey is poised to see a huge reduction of harmful air pollutants from a coal-fired Pennsylvania power plant, thanks to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of New Jersey’s Clean Air Act petition.
In March 2010, Gov. Chris Christie‘s administration filed a petition to reduce air emissions from the GenOn Energy power plant in Portland, Pa., which is responsible for adding sulfur dioxide, mercury, nitrogen oxides, hydrochloric acid, lead and other harmful emissions to New Jersey’s atmosphere. Particularly affected is Warren County, though air quality in Morris, Sussex and Hunterdon counties also is affected.
“This is a major step towards our continuing commitment to improving air quality for all residents of New Jersey,” Christie said in a news release. “The EPA made it clear that harmful emissions from a Pennsylvania coal-fired power plant will not be tolerated.”
Christie said the GenOn plant is one of the top five generators of sulfur dioxide among power plants in the nation, and that it emits more mercury than all of New Jersey’s coal-fired power plants combined. The Portland plant will be required to cut its sulfur dioxide emissions by 81 percent within three years, with 60 percent happening in the first year.
“This is an important victory for clean air in the state,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club. “That plant is the largest source of pollution in northwest New Jersey. It emits 140 pounds of mercury a year, impacting both wildlife and residents. This will allow the people of Warren and Sussex counties to breathe a lot easier.”
It’s the first time the EPA has made such a move regarding a power plant in another state. In addition to the Portland petition, New Jersey has two ongoing federal court cases dealing with power plants in western Pennsylvania, both of which pour out large volumes of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Sulfur dioxide is known to cause asthma and respiratory failure, as well as environmental impacts such as acid rain.
Tittel hopes New Jersey will continue to fight against pollution that comes from neighboring states.
“One-third of our pollution comes from out of state,” he said. “New Jersey needs to stand up to the rules that allow the cleanup of other plants under challenge.”