Talen Energy Agrees to End Coal Burning at Brunner Island Facility
Harrisburg, P.A.--The Sierra Club has reached a settlement with Talen Energy that will phase out coal burning at the Brunner Island power plant. Under the terms of the settlement, the coal plant, one of the largest polluters in the region since it came online in 1961, will stop burning coal from May through September (ozone season) by 2023 with some limited exceptions for emergencies, and year-round by 2028. The settlement will limit carbon dioxide emissions to 6.8 million tons/year during the phase-out period, and beginning in 2023 will reduce NOx emission rates during ozone season by about two-thirds compared to 2016 levels when burning coal.
The parties intend to execute the settlement through a court-enforceable consent decree to be filed after a required 90-day waiting period that begins with a Notice of Intent (NOI) to sue, which the Sierra Club served earlier today. Once approved by the court, the settlement would resolve the claims Sierra Club raised in the NOI.
“While we still have a few years until these protections will go into effect, stopping coal burning at Brunner Island will end the creation of many harmful toxins and help surrounding states meet the federal air pollution limits set by the Clean Air Act,” Mark Kresowik, Eastern Region Deputy Director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign said. “We believe this settlement will help resolve outstanding air pollution issues that have been raised by Delaware and Connecticut, and will significantly reduce water pollution resulting from the creation of coal ash at the site.”
The Brunner Island coal plant has caused water and air pollution issues both within Pennsylvania and across the Eastern seaboard. Last year, Delaware and Connecticut filed formal Good Neighbor petitions to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the federal Clean Air Act, charging that the Brunner Island power plant is interfering with the states’ ability to comply with federal ozone standards. Both states claimed that Brunner Island’s smog-causing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions contributed significantly to increased ozone levels within their borders. Sierra Club modeling demonstrated the plant increased smog levels even as far south as North Carolina, as far north as Canada and as far east as Massachusetts, potentially causing increases in asthma and other health problems throughout the region.
"This settlement is a major victory for all who were breathing the plant's polluted air,” said UN Special Envoy For Cities and Climate Change, Michael R. Bloomberg. “It's the latest example of how coal plant closures have accelerated over the past year, despite the administration's best efforts to prop up the industry. Americans don't have to choose between jobs and health - and in fact, cleaner energy jobs are growing steadily while coal industry jobs continue their decades-long decline. A big congratulations to the Sierra Club's members and supporters, who are helping America to win the war against the heavy health and economic costs of coal."
Beyond its air pollution issues, Brunner Island was also a source of ongoing water pollution in the area around its facility in York county. The plant has an outdated water pollution permit last updated more than ten years ago. This allowed the plant to release toxins such as arsenic, mercury, selenium and coal ash into the Susquehanna River, a major drinking water source for many Pennsylvanians downstream. These water pollutants leach out of the large volumes of ash that are the result of continued coal burning.
“This was a dirty and polluting coal plant that needed to clean up its act in more ways than one. Beyond significant air pollution violations due to legislative loopholes, the plant also dumped toxic pollutants into a major waterway--the Susquehanna” Patrick Grenter Senior Campaign Representative for Pennsylvania and Maryland said. “This settlement phases out the primary source of all of those community pollution problems: the coal burned at the plant.
In 2016, the plant added the capability to burn gas in addition to coal. Under the settlement, the plant may continue to burn fracked gas.
“We believe that the removal of the coal burning component is a step forward in cleaning up the region and making our communities healthier,” Grenter said.” We will continue to work toward a transition to clean, renewable energy as quickly as possible.”
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.