PA Coal Plant Shuts Down

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 @ 07:06 AM gHale

The Portland Generating Station in Upper Mount Bethel Township, PA, shut down its coal-fired boilers for good, but has hopes to starting back up in two years burning low-sulfur diesel.

NRG Energy hopes to have those boilers back online by 2016, burning low-sulfur diesel fuel to make electricity. It would employ 30 or more people when the boilers are online again, said David Gaier, the eastern region spokesman for NRG Energy, which owns the plant.

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“We think it’s good for the community and good for the region to keep the plant in service, to convert to a much cleaner fuel, to provide many jobs down the road and to provide tax and benefits to the community through this (conversion),” Gaier said.

NRG shut down the boilers to comply with a resolution of a 2007 lawsuit brought by Connecticut and New Jersey, which complained of downwind pollution from coal-fired power plants. To settle the suit, which came before NRG bought the power plant, NRG agreed to stop using coal at the Portland plant before the beginning of June.

All but “a handful” of jobs will end up eliminated, Gaier said. Those who remain will operate three comparatively small generating units — turbines — that already operate on diesel fuel. The coal boilers represented about two-thirds of the plant’s ability to generate electricity.

The Portland Generating Station, which NRG bought from GenOn in 2012, was the last coal-fired power plant in Northampton County. The PPL Martins Creek plant in Lower Mount Bethel Township shut down in 2007, also under pressure from environmentalists in New Jersey.

Pressures for coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions have peaked in recent years, culminating with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month. The court upheld Environmental Protection Agency rules to severely reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from power plants that contribute to air pollution downwind.

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