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May 29, 2013

Early Exit for Coal Plant in Pennsylvania

PA coal

It's never too early to shut down coal.

Earlier this month, NRG Energy settled a lawsuit that will end coal use six months early at the Portland Generating Station in Portland, Pennsylvania. The company also announced plans to shutter its Titus Station coal-fired plant outside Philadelphia one-and-a-half years early.

The Portland coal site was key for grassroots organizers because sulfur dioxide pollution from the plant affects families in other states, such as New Jersey and Connecticut, in addition to nearby communities. The two states targeted the coal plant for pollution in a lawsuit, and the announcement of the early closure is a result of the legal settlement. NRG has also agreed to invest $1 million to benefit the environment in New Jersey and Connecticut, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"We're glad to hear that this plant, which is the biggest source of air pollution in Northwestern New Jersey, will end their use of dirty coal ahead of schedule," said Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club’s New Jersey Chapter. "This is a victory for our lungs that will help us all breathe easier. We need to ensure that this plant is replaced with clean, renewable energy like wind and solar, not more harmful fossil fuels like natural gas that promotes fracking in our communities."

How bad was sulfur pollution from the Portland plant? Really bad. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection traced the highest short-term sulfur dioxide levels in the state to the plant. It demonstrated that toxic coal pollution doesn't stop for state and country borders. Such pollution causes asthma and respiratory problems in communities, in addition to acid rain.

The next focus will be on making sure energy companies such as NRG invest in a transition to renewable energy.

"Our fight is not over yet," said Tom Schuster, the Sierra Club's Pennsylvania campaign representative. "We need to ensure coal is not replaced by more dirty fuels, and that NRG invests instead in clean energy in the region that will create jobs and clean up our air."

-- Brian Foley

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