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Power Plants

Dirty Homer City Power Plant Told to Clean Up, or Else

Last week the EPA filed a Clean Air Act Complaint against the Homer City power plant in Indiana County. The plant was listed as one of America’s Dirtiest Polluters in 2007, emitting 13,576,987 tons of pollutants, only second to the dirty Bruce Mansfield plant in Beaver County. The Homer City plant was featured in the Post-Gazette’s series ‘Mapping Mortality

Also taking legal action against the plant is New York State, who filed notice to sue last July, based on the claim that the failure of the Homer City plant owners to install state-of-the-art pollution controls when the plant underwent several major modifications in the 1980s and 1990s. Pennsylvania’s DEP was part of the July 2010 notice but is not part of the final suit. (more…)

Rockefeller Wants to Delay EPA Action to Curb Power Plant Emissions

With little will in Congress for action, environmentalists are left to rely mainly on the Environmental Protection Agency to curb climate change. Having found that greenhouse gases (GHGs) endanger the public health and welfare, in January 2011 EPA will start employing GHG permitting requirements for large facilities that are already obtaining Clean Air Act permits for other pollutants such as mercury. Because coal-fired power plants are affected by this new EPA rule, Sen Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is seeking a 2-year delay in its implementation. (more…)

Suit Against Conemaugh Power Plant Back on Track

conemaugh power plant

On September 27, U.S. Magistrate Judge Amy Reynolds Hay ruled that a suit filed by the National Environmental Law Center on behalf of PennEnvironment and the Sierra Club can proceed because there was a legal error in her December dismissal. At issue is the claim that the Conemaugh Generating Plant in New Florence is polluting the Conemaugh river in violation of the Clean Water Act. The suit was initially filed in April 2007 against owners RRI Energy, alleging that the plant had been regularly dumping high levels of metals into the Conemaugh River in violation of the Clean Water Act.

PennEnvironment and the Sierra Club reiterated their contention that the plant “discharges more than 3 million gallons of wastewater per day containing selenium, manganese, aluminum, boron, and iron in concentrations that frequently exceed the limits that were set by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to protect water quality in the Conemaugh River.”

Two Local Sites Make a List of National Toxic Coal Ash Dumps

September 21, 2010
10:00 amto9:00 pm

KDKA photo of existing
Little Blue Run coal-ash pond.

A new study by Environmental Integrity Project/Earthjustice/Sierra Club shows that 39 additional coal-ash dump sites in 21 states that are contaminating drinking water or surface water with arsenic and other heavy metals. At every one of the coal ash dump sites equipped with groundwater monitoring wells, concentrations of heavy metals such as arsenic or lead exceed federal health-based standards for drinking water, with concentrations at Hatfield’s Ferry site in Greene County, PA, reaching as high as 341 times the federal standard for arsenic. The other Pennsylvania site listed in the study is the Bruce Mansfield (aka Little Blue) site in Beaver County. (more…)

Notices to Sue Two Local Power Plants Results in One Escape

The Homer City power plant in Indiana County is one of the dirtiest coal-fired plants in the country. It is No. 34 on the list of “America’s Biggest Polluters – Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Power Plants in 2007”. With emission of more than 13 million tons of CO2 in 2007, the Homer City plant is ranked second in Pennsylvania, after Bruce Mansfield plant in Beaver County. In the prevailing path of a lot of that CO2, New York state has had enough. On July 20, New York officials served notice to sue the current plant owners, a subsidiary of Edison International, and previous owners. The word is that Pennsylvania will join the suit, but there is no word yet from the state DEP.

Environmentalists to Sue Indiana County “Waste Coal” Power Plant

In 2004, the Seward power plant was opened by then Reliant Energy at a cost of $800 million, with $400 million of that in tax-exempt revenue bonds issued by the Commonwealth. Now owned by RRI Energy, the plant sits on the Conemaugh River near New Florence in Indiana County. It uses about 3.5 million tons of low-grade “waste” coal a year from an estimated 100 million tons of waste coal available in a 50-mile radius.

On May 24, 2010, just over six years later, the Sierra Club joined with PennEnvironment and Defenders of Wildlife in a notice of intent to sue both US EPA and Pennsylvania’s DEP over the current owner’s violations of the Clean Water Act, the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Representing the three environmental groups are the Environmental Integrity Project, based in Washington, D.C. and the National Environmental Law Center in Boston.


Local Citizens Stop Expansion of Coal Ash Pond


Included on the EPA’s August 2009 list of thirty coal-ash ponds with High Hazard Potential Ratings was Little Blue Run Dam at the Bruce Mansfield power plant in Shippingport, Beaver County. Known as fly ash ponds and more formally as Coal Combustion Residue (CCRs) – Surface Impondments, coal-ash ponds came to the fore when a TVA coal ash pond dam broke in Kingston, Tennessee in December 2008. Local action has now stalled expansion of a coal-ash pond in Beaver County. (more…)

Sen. Casey Back on Track as Climate Debate Centers on EPA

Last week we reported that Sen. Bob Casey had joined Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV) in urging EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to place a hold on the EPA’s regulation of CO2 emissions from coal-fired power stations. We also pointed out that Administrator Jackson had responded to Sen. Rockefeller. We are pleased to report that Jackson’s letter appears to have satisfied Sen. Casey, and we thank all who took time to contact our Senator.

Meanwhile, trouble is brewing in the House where the fossil fuel industries are putting pressure on our local members of Congress to support several bills or resolutions aimed at weakening or gut the Clean Air Act. Our Representatives needs to hear from us.

ACTION: Please contact your Representative and encourage him or her to refrain from any weakening of the Clean Air Act, especially as applied to the control of greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

EPA Proposes Stronger SO2 Standards for Power Plants

In an aggressive move to protect public health, on Nov. 17 the federal EPA proposed new regulations to reduce pollution from power plants. The EPA press release states:

The Other Alternate Energy – Hydro-Power

While wind power is getting lots of attention, both good and bad, and solar power is only just beginning to take off, little is said about the use of hydro-power on the rivers in western Pennsylvania.

Well, it turns out that near the Kinzua Dam up north on the Allegheny River is the Seneca Pumped Storage Generating Station. This facility, relying on pumping water up to a holding pond above the river, has been in operation since 1970 with a rated capacity of 402 MW. To put that in perspective, the rating for the 40 turbines on the Allegheny Ridge wind farm totals 80 MW. And the largest of First Energy’s plants, Bruce Mansfield near Shippingport, has three units that total 2,460 MW of electricity. (more…)

Water Quality – Is it Going Down the Drain?

drilling rig
Marcellus shale drilling rig viewed by party
on League of Women Voters tour.
Photo by Phil Coleman.

Western Pennsylvania is blessed with a climate that provides a life-sustaining resource that needs to be protected – the abundance of drinkable water. Today that essential resource is being assaulted in a number of ways, including  the expansion of Marcellus gas drilling, long wall mining, and the disposal of waste from coal-fired power-plants.

The state agency responsible for protecting our water quality is the Department of Environmental Protection. Unfortunately, at a time when more DEP staff is required to enforce the laws on the books, the state legislature has reduced funding for the DEP by $58 million (27%). Even before these budget cuts, the DEP’s task of maintaining water quality was overwhelming, as described in the next paragraph. And that task did not include the emerging problems associated with drilling for Marcellus shale gas, drilling which is not covered by the Clean Water Act! (more…)

EPA Acts Aggressively on Power Plant Emissions

This certainly isn’t your old Bush EPA. On the same day that the Boxer-Kerry climate change bill was introduced in the Senate, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced a move to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired plants and large industrial facilities.

This action, along with the G-20 commitment to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels, places considerable pressure on the Senate to pass a strong climate change bill.

Mt. Lebanon Residents Learn about Beech Hollow Coal Plant

The Beech Hollow waste coal plant proposed in nearby Robinson Twp. was the subject of an Aug. 27 public meeting organized by the Mt. Lebanon Environmental Community Action Team. Over fifty local residents heard about the problems associated with this proposed plant and what can be done to stop it.

Meeting in a classroom
Audience at Beech Hollow meeting, Aug. 27.
Photo courtesy of R. Francisco.

The Beech Hollow plant would emit 1,701,314 tons of global warming pollution every year, along with harmful levels of soot and smog pollution which can worsen asthma and cause other respiratory illnesses. In addition to health concerns, the Beech Hollow plant would prevent the development of clean renewable energy, like solar and wind, in Pennsylvania that could secure our energy future. (more…)

Dirty Coal Gets Another Bad Report on Mercury in Fish

Most Pennsylvanians probably know already that eating fish from our streams is not a safe practice because of mercury contamination. And most environmentalists understand that a major source of the mercury, in the form of methylmercury, is the emission from coal-fired power plants. Now they can learn just how widespread the contamination of this neurotoxin is throughout nation’s watersheds.

Mt Lebanon Meeting – Impact of Beech Hollow Coal Plant, and What You Can Do

August 27, 2009
7:30 pmto9:00 pm

The proposed Beech Hollow Coal Plant is a waste coal plant that would be built just over the Allegheny County line in Washington County, downwind from Mount Lebanon and other surrounding communities. Come find out how this proposed plant could affect your community and what we can do to stop it!

This public meeting is part of the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign, a campaign that has already helped to squash one hundred proposed new coal-fired plants – why invest in dirty new plants when we can invest in Clean Eenrgy?

WHEN: Thursday, August 27th, 7:00-9:00pm
WHERE: Mount Lebanon Public Library, 16 Castle Shannon Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15228-2252
QUESTIONS: Randy Francisco, randy dot francisco at sierraclub dot org

It will help if you RSVP Randy.

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