Coal Fired Plant to Shut Early

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 @ 07:05 PM gHale

The coal-fired units at the Portland Generating Station in Upper Mount Bethel Township, PA, will shut down six months early.

NRG Energy, the company that merged late last year with GenOn, settled a lawsuit with New Jersey and Connecticut over emissions from the plant, which had led to the early shutdown.

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The generating units will go offline June 2014, NRG Energy spokesman Dave Gaier said. Originally, they were going to go offline in January 2015, costing most of the 80 people who work at the plant their jobs.

The lawsuit, filed in 2007, was for “alleged noncompliance with the federal Clean Air Act” at the Portland plant “based on work done many years before NRG acquired the facility,” the company said.

“NRG only acquired the Portland plant in December 2012 when we closed our merger with GenOn — but we immediately started working with New Jersey and Connecticut and were able to resolve this issue without additional delay or cost to taxpayers,” said Lee Davis, president of NRG’s East Region. “As a part of the settlement, we committed to make a significant investment in projects that are beneficial to the environment consistent with NRG’s focus on providing power in a way that is environmentally responsible, reliable and affordable.”

Upper Mount Bethel Township officials remain concerned over the lost jobs.

“It’s a sad day,” said Jeff Manzi, a member of the township’s zoning board. “We’re losing jobs and revenue for the township and school district.”

Manzi said he hopes, if possible, the company would convert the plant to natural gas production. Otherwise, he hopes it ends up demolished.

Gaier said some staff will stay at the plant to operate the combustion turbines. Refueling the facility to natural gas remains an option after the settlement, Gaier said in an email, but the company has not made a decision on that yet.

“We agree with the states of Connecticut and New Jersey that the settlement is in the public interest,” Gaier said.

The head of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection called the settlement “a tremendous win” for the state.

“For too long, the coal-fired generators at this power plant emitted levels of … pollutants at levels that were unhealthy for our residents,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said, crediting Gov. Chris Christie’s administration for taking “aggressive action.”

The DEP said its air monitoring station in Knowlton Township, a mile from the plant, has measured the highest short-term sulfur dioxide levels in all of New Jersey.

Environmental groups across the Delaware River are happy to see the plant close early.

In addition to shutting the coal units, NRG Energy will invest $1 million to benefit the environment in Connecticut and New Jersey, the company said.

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