Pennsylvania reaches final settlement over 2005 Martins Creek ash spill

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said May 4 that it and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) have entered into an agreement with Talen Generation LLC for the company to pay a total of $952,150 for natural resource damages associated with the August 2005 coal ash spill at the Martins Creek plant in Northampton County.

The spill happened under subsidiaries of PPL Corp. (NYSE: PPL), which transferred Pennsylvania generating assets last year to Talen.

The fine money will be directed to mussel restoration and dam removal projects in tributaries to the Delaware River. The spill occurred after a wooden stop log in the Ash Basin No. 4 discharge structure failed, causing an estimated 100 million gallons of ash material to spread across local fields and into the Oughoughton Creek and the Delaware River.

DEP, working with PFBC, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), determined that the mussel population in the Delaware River was impacted as a result of both the spill and the cleanup. Mussel restoration and dam removal projects will assist in the restoration and vitality of the mussel populations and improve aquatic habitat and water quality.

“This is the final piece of the settlement with the company to address the spill and its impacts,” said Mike Bedrin, Director of DEP’s Northeast Regional Office in Wilkes-Barre. “While this has been a long time coming, it is ultimately a good resolution that is in the best interest of the Delaware River and its ecological community.”

Under the settlement, Talen Generation will make a payment of $902,150 to the DRBC to fund the dam removal projects, as well as a separate payment of $50,000 for the mussel restoration project(s) in tributaries to the Delaware River. The company must also pay $373,050 to the NJDEP for New Jersey-based restoration projects under a separate agreement with that agency.

In May 2008, DEP reached the first part of a settlement with PPL Generation LLC and PPL Martins Creek LLC, the owners and operators of the Martins Creek Plant at the time of the event, that required payment of a $1,500,000 civil penalty and corrective action for violations of various state environmental statutes associated with the ash spill. That settlement preserved the department’s claims for natural resource damages, which are resolved under the agreement announced May 4.

Martins Creek is a 1,700-MW plant that at the time of the spill burned coal, but has since been switched to only burning gas and oil.

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.