EPA rules force power plant closures

Michael P. Tremoglie Mar. 1, 2012, 1:37pm

HOUSTON (Legal Newsline) -- GenOn Energy says it expects to deactivate 3,140 megawatts of generating capacity in eight power plants between June 2012 and May 2015 "because forecasted returns on investments necessary to comply with environmental regulations are insufficient."

One of the affected power plants is located in Portland, Pa. This caused New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection to issue this release on Wednesday, the same day as the announcement:

"Christie Administration Pleased That Portland, Pa. Coal-Fired Electric Generating Units Will Stop Polluting New Jersey's Air."

"We're pleased to learn GenOn is shutting down its coal-fired units at the Portland plant by 2015," N.J. DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said.

"But New Jersey will continue to act aggressively to force GenOn to meet the federal requirements to dramatically reduce harmful emissions by 60 percent by January 2013, and by at least 81 percent by 2015.

"Those steps are essential for the health and welfare of our residents."

Martin added that he was still questioning that GenOn has not withdrawn its legal challenge to New Jersey's successful Section 126 Clean Air Act petition that mandated substantial emissions reductions from the Portland plant.

The EPA granted New Jersey's Section 126 petition in October. This petition was made to compel reductions of air pollution from GenOn's Portland power plant across the Delaware River from New Jersey. It was determined that sulfur dioxide (SO2), mercury and many other contaminants emitted into the air from this facility are carried in the atmosphere across the river to communities in New Jersey.

This petition was the first such granted by the EPA using the Clean Air Act. It was the first time it has granted a petition for a power plant bordering another state.

According to the company's website, GenOn is one of the largest competitive generators of wholesale electricity in the United States. The company stated that since 2000, it has invested approximately $2.4 billion in environmental controls for the existing plants expected to remain in GenOn's fleet after the deactivations.

The current emission levels were reduced by 78 percent compared to 1990 and SO2 emissions were reduced by 90 percent. The company also anticipates further adjustments in its plants investing $586 to $726 million over the next ten years for major environmental controls.

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