Sierra Club backs efforts by two states to get Brunner Island coal plant controls

The Sierra Club in a July 8 statement applauded a July 7 move by the state of Delaware to file a formal Good Neighbor petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency charging that Talen Energy‘s coal-fired Brunner Island power plant in Pennsylvania is interfering with the state’s ability to comply with the ozone safeguards in the Clean Air Act.

Smog-causing NOx pollution from this plant has not only been contaminating Delaware’s air, but also Connecticut’s, which filed a similar petition with the EPA last month, the club noted.

Both states’ claims are based on air quality modeling which showed that the Brunner Island plant’s NOx emissions have contributed significantly to ozone levels as far south as North Carolina, as far north as Canada and as far east as Massachusetts. By filing these petitions, the states are asking EPA to step in and control this pollution source.

Thomas Schuster, Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club, said: “We are pleased that Delaware and Connecticut are taking action to address the pollution dangers that come from the Brunner Island coal-fired power plant—something we have been warning the Pennsylvania [Department of Environmental Protection] and the EPA about for several years. The easiest and fastest way for EPA to resolve these problems is to hold this dirty coal plant to the same standard as other coal plants in the Commonwealth, by closing the Brunner Island loophole in Pennsylvania’s new smog (RACT) rule. Currently, the Brunner Island power plant has no controls for smog-causing NOx, and is one of the largest sources of this pollution on the eastern seaboard.”

Talen Energy (NYSE: TLN) said in its May 10 quarterly earnings report that a key strategic objective that continues on schedule is the natural gas co-firing project at the 1,500-MW Brunner Island coal plant. The company said it expects gas co-firing capability for the 750-MW Unit 3 to be completed in the third quarter of 2016. Co-firing of Units 1 and 2, which have a combined generating capacity of 750 MW, is on schedule for completion by the end of 2016. The company said it has commenced construction on a four-mile gas pipeline to the 1960s-era plant to support the co-firing project.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) said in a July 8 statement that it has taken two recent actions through the federal court system and U.S. EPA aimed at requiring “upwind states” to reduce air pollution generated within their borders that carries into and pollutes Delaware’s air.

  • A petition filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenges an EPA final rule that granted a one-year extension to the Philadelphia-based ozone nonattainment area to comply with the 2008 national ozone standard. This area includes Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey. Delaware believes EPA should require pollution reduction programs to address the transport of emissions from one state to another, rather than granting the extension. Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey requested the extension, but Delaware argued against it.
  • Delaware filed a petition with the EPA under Section 126 of the Clean Air Act asking EPA to make a finding that emissions from the Brunner Island plant, with its three coal-fired units, significantly contributes to unhealthy ozone concentrations in Delaware. Delaware’s petition is based on computer modeling that demonstrates that emissions from Brunner Island contribute heavily to ozone levels in Delaware that exceed the 2008 and 2015 8-hour ozone standards. EPA’s granting of the petition would require the Brunner Island facility to promptly reduce the emissions that significantly contribute to ozone exceedances in Delaware. Brunner Island’s units are not currently equipped with modern NOx controls similar to those installed starting in 2010 at Delaware’s NRG Indian River facility – which have reduced the annual NOx emissions rate by upwards of 80% from the last remaining coal unit at that facility, according to DNREC statistics. Modern NOx controls, such as selective catalytic reduction (SCR), have been in commercial service at coal-fired units for decades, and have the ability to significantly reduce NOx emissions from coal-fired sources, the Delaware agency added.
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.