NRG agrees to shut off coal use at Portland plant by June 2014

NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) said May 15 that it has settled litigation by agreeing with the states of New Jersey and Connecticut on a shutdown schedule for coal use at two units of the Portland Generating Station in Mt. Bethel, Pa.

The settlement, via a federal Consent Decree, allows the parties to avoid further litigation of a lawsuit that began in 2007. Portland is a 570-MW plant, located 26 miles northeast of Bethlehem, Pa., on the Delaware River. The GenerationHub database shows Portland’s two coal units with nameplate capacities of 172 MW and 255 MW.

“NRG only acquired the Portland plant in December 2012 when we closed our merger with GenOn – but we immediately started working with New Jersey and Connecticut and were able to resolve this issue without additional delay or cost to taxpayers,” said Lee Davis, President of NRG’s East Region. “As a part of the settlement, we committed to make a significant investment in projects that are beneficial to the environment consistent with NRG’s focus on providing power in a way that is environmentally responsible, reliable and affordable.”

The agreement ends a lawsuit brought by New Jersey and Connecticut for alleged non-compliance with the federal Clean Air Act at the Portland plant based on work done many years before NRG acquired the facility. NRG said it operates the Portland plant in full compliance with permits issued by Pennsylvania and denies there have been any violations of the Clean Air Act. However, the company agreed with New Jersey and Connecticut that settlement of this action is in the public interest and the most efficient means of resolving the dispute.

To meet the requirements of the settlement, NRG will stop using coal as fuel in two units at Portland by June 1, 2014, after receiving needed regulatory approvals. The units were previously scheduled to be deactivated on Jan. 6, 2015. NRG has also agreed to invest $1m to benefit the environment in New Jersey and Connecticut.

The Consent Decree will be provided to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for review and comment for a period of 45 days and then must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

In December 2007, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) sued NRG predecessor GenOn Energy in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging that new source review violations occurred at Portland. The suit sought installation of best available control technology (BACT) for each pollutant, to enjoin GenOn from operating the generating facility if it is not in compliance with the Clean Air Act (CAA) and civil penalties, NRG noted in its May 7 Form 10-Q report. The suit also named past owners of the plant as defendants, but the claims against the past owners have since been dismissed. In March 2009, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection became an intervening party to this 2007 suit.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.