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Brunner Island agrees to stop using coal after facing lawsuit

Written by Maddie Crocenzi/ York Daily Record | Feb 15, 2018 9:08 AM
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Steam rises from the Brunner Island coal-fired plant in this 2013 photo. (York Daily Record)

The Brunner Island power plant will stop using coal by the end of 2028 as part of a settlement with the Sierra Club.

Talen Energy, the plant's owner, announced the settlement today after the Sierra Club served a Notice of Intent to sue the plant over air and water pollution.

The plant will wean off of coal and operate only on natural gas during the ozone season from May 1-Sept. 30 beginning in 2023. After that, the plant will stop using coal year-round by the end of 2028, with a few exceptions for emergencies.
Talen's response

"We are pleased the parties reached an agreement that eliminates the distraction of litigation or objections to permitting and enables Brunner Island to focus on the safe, efficient and reliable generation of electricity for our customers," Todd Martin, Talen's manager of media relations said.

"The agreement allows us to maximize the value and output of the station, as well as giving Brunner Island a clear path forward to sustainable operation. Additionally, it allows Brunner Island to maintain the flexibility to continue to operate on coal or natural gas for the next 10 years, based on certain conditions."

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Todd Martin, bottom left, the Manager of Media Relations with Talen Energy, met with concerned citizens after a public hearing was organized by the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeepers in response to Talen barring fishing, boating and hiking on its land. (Photo: Jason Plotkin, York Daily Record)

Brunner Island has had both water and air pollution issues. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection cited the plant as the single largest stationary source of smog-causing nitrogen oxide pollution in southeastern Pennsylvania.

In July 2017, a Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission biologist said the plant releases heavy metals and heated water into the river. According to a press release, the Sierra Club said the plant released arsenic, mercury, selenium and coal ash into the Susquehanna River because of an outdated water pollution permit.

However, Martin said that Brunner Island is "in compliance with all applicable laws, regulations and operating permits."

"Finally, our company is committed to environmental stewardship and to minimizing the impact from our operations," Martin said.

Talen Energy made waves in late 2017 when the company closed public access to the island, ending a long tradition of fishing, boating and hiking on the land.

Last year, Delaware and Connecticut filed "Good Neighbor petitions" with the EPA under the Clean Air Act. Both states said Brunner Island's nitrogen oxide emissions, which caused smog, were increasing ozone levels in their states.

Connecticut sued the EPA, and last week, U.S. District Judge Warren Eginton said the agency has 60 days to act on Connecticut's petition.

"This was a dirty and polluting coal plant that needed to clean up its act in more ways than one," said Patrick Grenter, the Sierra Club's senior campaign representative for Pennsylvania and Maryland. "We believe that the removal of the coal-burning component is a step forward in cleaning up the region and making our communities healthier." 

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