Environmental Protection

PennFuture Gives GenOn Notice of Possible Suit over Air Pollution

The company's Cheswick Power Plant reportedly may resume operating without pollution controls.

Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture) on Jan. 18 notified GenOn Power Midwest, L.P., the owner of the Cheswick (Allegheny County) Power Plant, that it would sue if the plant resumes operation without reinstating use of the pollution controls formerly in place.

In a letter, (pdf) the group says that the plant’s proposal to operate with the scrubbers violates both the federal Clean Air Act and Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) rules.

“GenOn’s proposal to operate without controls will result in deadly pollution, with citizens of the Allegheny Valley suffering the most,” said John Baillie, senior and lead attorney on the matter. “It will exacerbate the current public health crisis from air pollution, adding more deaths and illnesses to our already high mortality and disease.”

A 2010 study by the Clean Air Task Force stated that the Cheswick Power Plant, when operating without these pollution controls, causes 17 deaths, 29 heart attacks, 260 asthma attacks (with 12 needing emergency room care), 10 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 12 hospital admissions each year.

“The Allegheny County Health Department, the agency that is supposed to protect our citizens from air pollution, granted GenOn’s request to run without controls, without giving any public notice,” said Baillie. “Yet there is nothing the Health Department rules that allows the plant to run without pollution controls, and the fact that it was done without notifying the citizens is particularly egregious.

“The scrubbers were apparently removed by GenOn because they exhibited serious corrosion after only six months in operation,” continued Baillie. “Yet the actions of the company and the Health Department will mean that this metal-corroding pollution is released for humans to breathe. We cannot allow our children and parents, our friends and families, the plant’s workers and suppliers, to risk their health and lives so that this dirty plant can operate.”

GenOn will have 60 days to develop a plan to correct the violations before a lawsuit can be filed.
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