Portland Generating Station

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Portland Generating Station is a coal-fired power station owned and operated by Reliant Energy (now GenOn Energy) near Portland, Pennsylvania. In December 2012, GenOn merged with NRG Energy, which acquired the plant.

On February 29, 2012, GenOn Energy said it will close seven of its coal generating stations by 2015, citing impending environmental regulations. This included Portland, with a proposed closure date of January 2015.[1]

In May 2013 NRG Energy settled a lawsuit over Clean Air Act violations at the plant with New Jersey and Connecticut, and said it will shut down the Portland coal units early, in June 2014.[2] In July 2014 it was reported the three units were continuing to operate by burning diesel fuel to produce power when needed.[3]

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Pollution controls

Residents to GenOn: Shut Down the Portland Coal Plant

New Jersey sues over plant emissions

In May 2010, New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency against the Portland Generating Station, contending that it regularly exceeds federal clean-air standards and pollutes Warren County, NJ. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson also complained about the facility when she was New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection commissioner from 2006 until 2008. In 2007, Jackson filed a lawsuit, which is still active, making similar claims about EPA inaction. But the EPA said it is putting off any action until January 2011, contending it needs more time.[4]

On March 31, 2011, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted the petition by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to limit sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from the Portland plant. The petition said the plant adversely impacted air quality in four northwest NJ counties: Warren, Sussex, Morris, and Hunterdon. The EPA ordered the plant to reduce its SO2 emissions by 81 percent over a three year period.[5]

Citizen protest

About forty residents and activists gathered outside the Portland Generating Station as part of the September 24th, 2011 Moving Planet Day of Action to transition beyond fossil fuels. The demonstrators planned on making a 3-mile trip on foot from the plant in Portland to Knowlton, NJ, "to show how GenOn's path of pollution affects both states" but said the Borough of Portland refused to write an acknowledgement letter to the Penn DOT for their permit. Instead, they gathered around the plant to point out that the plant is one of the "top 5 soot polluters in the country" and its "emissions leeches out over 7 counties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, putting the health of hundreds of thousands of residents at risk." Noting the New Jersey lawsuit against the plant, they said that GenOn should retire the 50-year old Portland plant and move away from coal.[6]

Plant must lower emissions by 2014

In October 2011, the EPA ruled that Portland must lower emissions within three years. Under the environmental agency’s decision, the plant must install equipment to reduce its sulfur dioxide emissions by 81 percent. The plant is among the 44 percent of coal-fired generating stations in the nation that don’t have advanced technology to control pollution, the environmental agency said. In 2009, the Portland plant emitted more than twice the total amount of sulfur dioxide from all of New Jersey’s plants combined, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. About one-third of air pollution in New Jersey, which does not meet federal standards for healthy air, comes from other states.[7]

Plant closing

In May 2013 NRG Energy, which merged with GenOn Energy in 2012, settled a lawsuit over Clean Air Act violations at the plant with New Jersey and Connecticut, and said it will shut down the Portland coal units early, in June 2014.[8]

Coal ash site and groundwater contamination

A May 2009 study released by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and Earthjustice said that a 15-acre coal ash dump in Upper Mount Bethel Township, PA was not properly lined and did not have adequate controls to prevent groundwater contamination. The dump contains coal ash from the Portland Generating Station, owned by Reliant Energy. The report comes from previously unreleased data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency.[9]

Lisa Widawsky, an attorney for EIP, said that if the dump contaminates the groundwater with arsenic, nearby residents who drink well water could face cancer risks of 50 times higher than what EPA considers safe. Upper Mount Bethel Township Supervisor Judith Henckel said the power company needs to do more on environmental clean up.[9]

Plant Data

  • Owner: Reliant Energy Mid-Atlantic
  • Parent Company: Reliant Energy
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity: 427 MW (Megawatts)
  • Units and In-Service Dates: 172 MW (1958), 255 MW (1962)
  • Location: 40897 River Rd., Portland, PA 18351
  • GPS Coordinates: 40.908529, -75.08059
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source:
  • Number of Employees:

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 2,260,925 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 30,685 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 3,357 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 131 lb.

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Portland Generating Station

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[10] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[11]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Portland Generating Station

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 30 $220,000,000
Heart attacks 54 $5,900,000
Asthma attacks 500 $26,000
Hospital admissions 25 $570,000
Chronic bronchitis 19 $8,300,000
Asthma ER visits 20 $8,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed March 2011

Articles and Resources

References

  1. "GenOn Looking to Cut Generating Capacity … Shawville Plant in the Crosshairs," GantDaily.com, Feb. 29, 2012.
  2. Tony Rhodin, "Portland Generating Station to shut down coal-fired units several months early after lawsuit is settled, owner says," The Express-Times, May 15, 2013.
  3. "Pa. power plant stops burning coal, but fires up diesel, irking local N.J. officials," NJ.com, July 22, 2014
  4. Brian Murray, "N.J. environmental official urges quick response to Warren County coal plant pollution" NJ.com, July 12, 2010.
  5. David Gabel, "EPA Rules Pennsylvania Plant Must Lower Emissions into New Jersey Air" Environmental News Network, April 1, 2011.
  6. Christine Guhl, "Moving Planet - Fighting Coal in Portland, PA" Sierra Club Compass, Sep. 28, 2011.
  7. Christopher Baxter, "Pennsylvania coal power plant blamed for polluting N.J. air must better control its emissions, federal authorities rule" nj.com, Oct. 31, 2011.
  8. Tony Rhodin, "Portland Generating Station to shut down coal-fired units several months early after lawsuit is settled, owner says," The Express-Times, May 15, 2013.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Chris Knight, "Environmental group says Slate Belt coal-ash dump inadequately protecting against groundwater contamination," Express-Times, May 11, 2009.
  10. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  11. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010

General Sources

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