NJ Fights Pa. Over Pollution

Officials are accusing several Pennsylvania power plants of not doing enough to control pollution which has blown into New Jersey.


Pennsylvania and New Jersey are in the midst of a neighborly dispute. And the stakes are a bit higher than cut grass.

According to the Morning Call, westerly winds are blowing a significant portion of sulfur dioxide from Pennsylvania over the Delaware River into New Jersey.

Sulfur dioxide is a major air pollutant that can aggravate asthma and can also cause bronchitis and other respiratory diseases.

The pollutant combines with other contaminants and water vapor and falls onto the ground as acid rain.

New Jersey officials say that Pennsylvania regulators haven’t done enough to control pollution emissions from state power plants.

The Morning Call reports that one of the plants being targeted is the Portland Generating Station in Northampton County, which is also under federal review.

Pollution can be controlled through the usage of scrubber systems, which are devices that are used to remove particulates and gases from industrial exhaust systems.

However, the Portland plant and other plants in the state don’t use scrubbers, according to several lawsuits.

GenOn Energy, which owns the Portland plant claims that Pennsylvania never told them to upgrade, according to the Morning Call.

In addition, the Morning Call also says that GenOn officials believe that installing scrubbers at older coal plants is “economically unfeasible.”

GenOn has installed pollution controls in their plants before however. The Morning Call says that back in 2009, after Maryland enforced stricter sulfur dioxide rules, GenOn installed pollution control at three plants in the state. The control reportedly reduced emissions by more than 80 percent, according to the Morning Call. Pennsylvania hasn’t enforced similar rules however.

The Morning Call reports that New Jersey filed a complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year under a “good neighbor” clause of the federal Clean Air Act. The Act protects eastern states from pollution blown from the Midwest.

New Jersey officials say that the coal-fired plant south of Portland along the Delaware River creates more sulfur dioxide than all of New Jersey’s coal plants combined.

New Jersey filed lawsuits against four western Pennsylvania power plants, claiming that the plants expanded their operations without installing the best available pollution control technology.
The Morning Call also reports that earlier in the year, the EPA agreed to consider a petition to enforce strict sulfur dioxide standards against the Portland plant.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environment Protection has remained relatively quiet about the issue. However, they asked the EPA to set a timetable for the Portland plant to follow if the sulfur dioxide ruling is upheld, according to the Morning Call.

The Morning Call reports that several Pennsylvania politicians, including Senators Pat Toomey, Robert Casey and Charlie Dent have shown support for the Portland plant.

They claim that New Jersey’s timetable, demanding that the plant cut half of its pollution emissions in one year, is unrealistic.

Plant supporters also say that New Jersey has no right to complain as long as Pennsylvania meets the environmental standards that are currently in place.

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