EPA rejects Delaware petitions

DOVER — A federal agency recently denied petitions from Delaware asking for a reduction in emissions by four power plants in nearby states.

The Environmental Protection Agency over the weekend notified state officials it had rejected Delaware’s appeal to place stricter limits on three coal-fired power stations in Pennsylvania and one in West Virginia.

According to the agency, the plants are not preventing Delaware from meeting the national ambient air quality standards.

“EPA found that there are no additional cost-effective measures available at any of the sources,” states a fact sheet posted to its website. “Existing programs that require cost effective emissions reductions from all of the named sources … are in place and will address the concerns of the petitioning states.”

Delaware submitted four petitions in 2016 identifying four plants as hindering its goal of meeting federal ozone standards established in 2008 and 2015. The EPA announced in June it planned to deny the petitions pending a public hearing.

The four sites are the Brunner Island Steam Electric Station in York Haven, Pa.; the Homer City Power Station in Homer City, Pa.; the Conemaugh Generating Station in New Florence, Pa.; and the Harrison Power Station in Haywood, W.V. They produce ground-level ozone, a secondary air pollutant created by a reaction between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds exposed to sunlight that can carry downwind for hundreds of miles.

At about 55 miles away as the crow flies, the Brunner Island Steam Electric Station is by far the closest of the four to Delaware.

Delaware Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn Garvin in a statement lamented the decision.

“We received the decision by EPA over the weekend and are still reviewing it,” he said. “Delaware is very disappointed that EPA has denied our petitions to address upwind source emissions, with over 90 percent of emissions impacting Delaware’s air quality coming from out of state.

“Based on a quick read, it appears that the EPA is not interpreting the available data properly, nor are they implementing the Clean Air Act’s Good Neighbor provisions as they were intended to be used. We will be looking at all of our legal options, but if transport from upwind states is not adequately addressed, Delawareans will continue to suffer from unhealthy air.

“We have pursued – and will continue to pursue – voluntary and collaborative efforts with our fellow states to ensure upwind power plants meet the same stringent standards for controlling air pollution that Delaware is required to meet.”

A DNREC spokeswoman did not respond to an email asking if Delaware was seeking to restrict pollution to a specific level.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA can place restrictions on a source that “emits or would emit any air pollutant at amounts that violate the good neighbor provisions” and can shut the site down if it does not comply.

Jeremy Firestone, a professor of marine policy at the University of Delaware, said the pollutants have a big impact on Delaware residents and can even lead to increased mortality rates.

To Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the rejection represents “an abject failure by the Trump Administration to do its job.”

“Delaware is working hard to reduce harmful emissions that contribute to its ozone problem, but more than 90 percent of our air pollution comes from upwind states’ power plants. In other words, we can’t do it alone,” he said in a statement.

“In order for our constituents to be able to breathe the healthy air they deserve, EPA must enforce the ‘good neighbor’ rule and hold upwind states emitting these harmful emissions accountable for their actions. Delaware is not asking much of its neighbors.

“Upwind power plants simply need to run already-installed pollution control technology in order for Delawareans to breath cleaner air. But rather than asking these facilities to just turn on the technology they have already installed, EPA has decided to side with polluters over people.”

 

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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