Pennsylvania and New Jersey Call on EPA to Protect Public Health from Portlant plant
For Immediate Release: April 27, 2011
Anna Maria Caldara, 610-599-9985 Robert Gardner, 540-421-7558
Laura Dempsey, 908-362-6791 Elliott Ruga, 973-588-7190
Katie Feeney, 215-567-4004 x 112 Fred Stine, 856-816-8021
Christine Guhl, 609-510-4684 Dr. Stanley H. Weiss, 973-972-4623
Oxford, NJ – Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a public hearing to address air pollution emitted from the GenOn coal plant in Portland, PA. Citizens of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, along with medical professionals and environmentalists, demanded an end to the plant’s toxic emissions that endanger the health of surrounding communities.
“The emissions from this plant are clearly a problem for both states. It is vital that the United States Environmental Protection Agency take immediate measures to ensure that the Portland Plant remedy its emissions problems,” stated Katie Feeney, Clean Air Council Policy Analyst.
Community members joined the MAPLE coalition outside the Pequest Trout Hatchery with signs and banners calling for the EPA to finalize a rule that would force GenOn to limit air pollution from its Portland plant. Activists rallied around the Rolling Sunlight – a large solar panel truck with two wind turbines – in support of the EPA’s current efforts to protect public health and the environment.
The EPA announced the hearing in response to a petition from the State of New Jersey. Warren County, NJ is out of compliance with state air quality regulations because of the Portland coal plant’s emissions. Prevailing winds carry the air pollution from the Pennsylvania plant, which sits on the banks of the Delaware River, to New Jersey.
"The EPA's proposed air quality standards for the Portland power plant are an important and welcomed step toward protecting both our air and water quality, and our public health" stated Fred Stine, Citizen Action Coordinator for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
MAPLE, the Multi-state Alliance to Promote Lasting Energy, is a coalition of environmental and citizen action organizations. MAPLE includes Clean Air Council, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the New Jersey Highlands Coalition, Save the Park and Stop the Lines. The coalition has been working to end fossil fuel use in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. MAPLE is calling on the EPA to enforce a strong rule limiting sulfur dioxide pollution from the GenOn coal plant.
“A strong federal standard will help make the air and water of the New Jersey Highlands safe from the network of dirty coal powered plants that feed the northeast electric grid,” said Elliott Ruga, NJ Highlands Coalition Senior Policy Analyst.
Air pollution, specifically sulfur dioxide (SO2), emitted from the GenOn plant, is associated heart and respiratory disease, and a disproportionately high prevalence of asthma in Warren County. This facility emits up to triple the amount of SO2 that all New Jersey’s coal plants emit combined. Acting upon a concern of citizens in Belvidere and White Township, Dr. Stanley H. Weiss and Dr. Clifford Weisel conducted a series of epidemiologic investigations.
“These affected communities show a high rate of asthma in children. A prospective study of children with asthma indicated that SO2 levels were significantly associated with increased symptoms of asthma and decreased peak flow,” said Dr. Stanley H. Weiss, Professor of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, UMDNJ - New Jersey Medical School.
Dave McNulty, a citizen of Warren County, expressed concern for the health of his children because of the plant’s emissions. “My son’s asthma was the impetus for our decision to move out of Mountain Lake,” McNulty said.
“This is a perfect example of how critically important the EPA is – without it, downwind states, like New Jersey, could not protect their citizens from dangerous air pollution,” said Christine Guhl, Sierra Club Associate Organizing Representative.
The Portland coal plant has been in operation for over 50 years. It is one of the oldest coal plants in the nation and produces millions of tons of air pollution each year. In addition to the air emissions, each day GenOn dumps truckloads of toxic coal ash from the plant into a pit in Bangor, PA.
"Why should we keep generating more toxic ash, which continues to pollute our air and water, when conservation of resources and renewable energy are viable options?” said Anna Maria Caldara, citizen activist and MAPLE coalition member.
GenOn has stated that upgrading the plant to meet air quality standards could be too costly and the company would consider shutting the plant down. The company has not stated whether it would consider repowering the plant with renewable resources. William Rosebrock, a Warren County resident, asserted that GenOn is in a financial position to convert the power plant property into a solar farm, preserving the jobs and the tax credit for the residents of Portland. “In the eight hours of this hearing national electricity revenue will be over $300 million. GenOn has plenty of money to repower the Portland site with clean, renewable energy,” Rosebrock said.
"The citizens of New Jersey can no longer afford GenOn's hyperbole and indecision. The EPA is making the correct decision to safeguard our public health from Portland Generating Station's air pollution." said Robert Gardner, Greenpeace Coal Campaigner.
"The time is right for the closure of this plant, a cleaner and renewable source of energy is what we need to focus on for the health and safety of both Pennsylvania and New Jersey," said Laura Dempsey, founder of Save the Park.
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