A Very Brief Note

Dear Reader,

In recent weeks there has been an upheaval in the world of coal-fired electric utilities, with numerous plant closures announced following the release of the EPA Mercury rule.  From Illinois to Pennsylvania, companies are announcing that their plants are no longer economically viable, and thus will be closed.

I suggest you, as a concerned citizen, follow it closely.  As time permits I will be collecting this information and writing about it on this blog– but that may not be for a day, or a week, or longer, and events are moving much faster than I have time to update this worthwhile project.

So keep informed, and feel free to get in touch,

Dan.

 

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Homer City Power Plant to Install Pollution Control Scrubbers

Edison Mission Energy, the operator of the Homer City plant, presented their plan to install pollution control technologies at the Homer City plant Tuesday. The $700 million plan proposes to install scrubbers on two units at the plant. The scrubbers are intended to reduce air emissions of sulfur dioxide, mercury, and particulate matter so as to comply with new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) and interstate air pollution rules, set to take effect in 2014.  The construction of the scrubbing system will employ several hundred people, including construction workers, union specialists and master craftsmen.

The proposed installation of the scrubbers is a direct consequence of regulatory action taken by the EPA. Had these historic air-quality standards not been released the plant would continue its egregious history of air pollution while calmly claiming to be a responsible corporate citizen acting inside of the law. Regulation is necessary to drive change; without a regulatory apparatus it would be impossible to persuade the corporate leadership of companies such as EME to clean up their act. As the seventh worst-polluting coal-fired power plant in the United States the Homer City plant has disregarded public health and the environment, until rightfully coerced into doing the honest thing (installing pollution control technologies) by the EPA.

While the installation of two more scrubbers is a step forward there is still reason for concern. Independent analysis has yet to confirm that the plan will place the plant in compliance by 2014. The waste from the scrubbers, which is a dry, dusty substance, will be buried in a landfill on-site, and may lead to dust pollution if not carefully handled. As the permitting process advances further analysis will be available, and public hearings held. As the permit is made available for public comment it is extremely important that concerned citizens ask for the best possible pollution control and a guarantee of compliance. It is the cleansing light of public scrutiny which will ensure the future compliance and maintainance of these life-saving pollution control technologies.

A word of thanks to all  of the volunteers who worked to collect public comment on the EPA mercury rules, the catalyst for these life-saving upgrades.  Your continued support and activism is necessary if we are to achieve a just and healthful future.

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EPA Implements Air Quality Standards for Power Plants

On 21 December 2011 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced historic Mercury and Air Toxins Standards (MATS) for power plants.  These are the  first-ever national standards limiting toxic emissions from power plants.  The MATS limit emissions of mercury,  particulate matter and acid gasses.  This rule effects approximately 1100 coal-fired and 300 oil-fired power plants.  All coal- and oil-fired power plants producing 25 megawatts or more will have four years to comply. The cost of implementation is estimated at $9.6 billion.  Check out the available fact sheets for a concise and comprehensive overview.

The MATS will require coal- and oil-fired power plants to meet the emissions standards of the most efficient and least-polluting plants currently operating, and reduce emissions of particularly hazardous pollutants to well below levels which could effect human health.  See Section 112 of the Clean Air Act for further information on the limit-setting standard.  The Homer City power plant, as one of the dirtiest plants in the nation, will have a significant amount of work to do in the next four years.

Toxic emissions from power plants contribute to premature death as well as neurological, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. According to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson by 2016 these standards “will prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 cases of aggravated asthma among children between six and 18 years old”.  Jackson estimated the value of health benefits associated with compliance at between $37 billion and $90 billion in 2016.

These standards will not only give back through better health; they will create concrete jobs.  The creation and operation of pollution control technologies will require 46,000 construction jobs and 8,000 utilities jobs, according to the EPA.

The implementation of these standards will directly improve the quality of life throughout the nation and our community.  The Homer City power plant is one of the dirtiest coal plants in the United States – ranking number two in arsenic emissions, the seventh overall worst.  A plant that has avoided the installation of pollution control technologies for a decade will be required to reduce emissions or decommission.

These standards are a concrete victory for human health.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

A number of volunteers collected public comment postcards at the Indiana County fair during the summer of 2011.  A warm and heartfelt thanks to the Indiana County volunteers who worked through the Sierra Club and the Coalition for a Healthy County to collect public comment in favor of these life-saving air-quality standards.

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Homer City Power Plant, Ranked 3rd in Arsenic, 4th in HCL Emissions, to be Addressed in EPA Air Quality Rules

A moment south of Homer City, Pennsylvania three towering smoke stacks and enormous, squat cooling towers perpetually billow massive clouds into the sky. At sunset the horizon on which the towers sit turns shocking shades of orange and pink, betraying the chemical contents of the endless emissions. This structure is the Homer City generating station, a coal-fired power plant owned by General Electric and operated by a subsidiary of Edison International.

The Homer City power plant is a familiar sight to residents of Indiana and surrounding counties. The primary stack, the third tallest in North America, is visible for miles on a clear day. Many of our neighbors, friends and families are or have been employed by the electric utility. This monolithic structure has generated electricity day in, day out for decades.

However, the environmental and public health impacts are inseparable from this iconic power plant. Mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin particularly harmful to women, children and developing fetuses is only one of many pollutants emitted by the plant.  The Homer City power plant has faced several lawsuits for continued violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA) New Source Review and interstate air pollution rules.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and the states New York and New Jersey have charged the Homer City power plant for contributing to acid rain, smog, and health effects related to its toxic emissions. EME Homer City Generation LP (The Plant) is ranked as one of the worst polluting coal-fired power plants in the United States.  The Plant continues to operate as it did decades ago, in spite of tougher environmental and public health regulations, and best available pollution control technology.

A recently released report by the Environmental Integrity Project ranked the Homer City power plant (EME Homer City Generation LP) the seventh dirtiest coal-fired power plant in the nation.  The power plants were ranked according to their emissions as reported to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Index (TRI).  The TRI tracks the release of toxic chemicals across a variety of industries, including the three coal-fired electric utilities in Indiana County.

The Environmental Integrity Project study uses TRI data to show that six of the top twenty dirtiest plants are in Pennsylvania;  three are in Western Pennsylvania.   The study ranked Pennsylvania first in arsenic, cobalt and lead emissions, and second in hydrochloric acid aerosols.  Six of the top ten arsenic emitters are located in Pennsylvania.

Mercury pollution is particularly dangerous to women, children and developing fetuses

The Homer City power plant (7th dirtiest!) reported 5,153 lbs of arsenic, chromium, lead and mercury emissions  in 2010.  The Plant ranked third in arsenic emissions with 2,400 lbs, and fourth in hydrochloric acid with a staggering 4,100,005 lbs.  By their own admitted emissions EME Homer City Generation LP is one of the most serious polluters in the United States, dumping millions of pounds of deadly chemicals into our air and water each year.

The Environmental Protection Agency is set to issue air quality rules his week which will address mercury and air toxin releases from coal-fired power plants.  These air quality rules will govern the release of hazerdous air pollutants, and are expected to save the nation billions in public health costs. Thousands of individuals and organizations from across the nation have come together to ask the EPA for protection from toxic pollution.  Comprehensive air quality standards are necessary to protect Pennsylvania from the extreme levels of pollution from coal-fired power plants such as Homer City.  Comprehensive regulation in conjunction with the efforts of individuals and organizations to move Beyond Coal are necessary to protect ourselves, our neighbors and our environment from continued contamination.

While the EPA air-quality rules are a significant step in mitigating the continuing damage to our health and communities, regulation cannot be the only strategy in our path to a world Beyond Coal.  Fostering a green-energy economy as well as improving energy efficiency and smart-grid technologies, in conjunction with regulation, is necessary to overcome the health and environmental impacts of fossil-fuel energy production by moving Beyond Coal.

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Filed under Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, Homer City, Regulation, Toxic Release Index, Update

It Has Begun

Welcome to the Sierra Club Homer City Beyond Coal team blog!  As our campaign progressess this site will expand rapidly, providing local and national campaign updates and access to the latest opportunities for action agianst big polluters in Indiana County!  Check back frequently for updated content!  Check out BeyondCoal.org for more information on the Sierra Club national campaign to transition from dirty coal energy production.

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