At a press conference today, local families affected by pollution from the Homer City Generating Station joined the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Greenpeace, Interfaith Power and Light and the Coalition for a Healthy County (Indiana County) in calling for the plant’s closure. Local residents described the health effects local pollution has had on their communities, including increased asthma rates and respiratory illnesses. Data from the Clean Air Task Force estimates that pollution from the Homer City power plant contributes to 43 premature deaths, 72 heart attacks and 660 asthma attacks annually.
Today’s Notice of Intent alleges that Homer City has actually been emitting enough sulfur dioxide pollution to violate its air pollution permit under the Clean Air Act, in some places causing ambient concentrations of sulfur dioxide more than double the health-based limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“We are bringing suit against the Homer City Generating Station to protect its neighbors’ health,” said Charles McPhedran, staff attorney for Earthjustice. “Sulfur dioxide is an extremely harmful pollutant, and this plant is among the worst polluters in the United States. It’s time for Homer City to clean up its act.”
In addition, the Sierra Club released a modeling report showing that—at emission levels currently permitted by the State—Homer City has the potential to violate the Environmental Protection Agency’s health-based limits for sulfur dioxide pollution across a vast area, and urging Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection to step in and tighten up Homer City’s permit to protect the public’s health.
The Homer City Generating Station’s primary owner is General Electric; it is operated by a subsidiary of Edison International. Edison’s subsidiary, EME Homer City Generation L.P., has proposed pollution controls commonly known as “scrubbers” for the plant, but today’s findings reveal that the limits Homer City is proposing will not remove enough pollution in the air to allow them to meet the EPA’s health-based safety limits.
In proposing to approve new pollution controls for the Homer City plant, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is requiring emissions from Homer City to comply with federal safeguards known as the National Ambient Air Quality Standard—the standard that today’s report indicates Homer City cannot meet.
“Our report’s dispersion modeling indicates a widespread problem: we are potentially exposed to sulfur dioxide far above safe levels, and the unsafe area is huge, extending well beyond the localized area surrounding Homer City. A more realistic goal for EME Homer City would be to create a long term commitment to bringing green jobs to Indiana County through renewable energy systems,” said Nancy F. Parks, Clean Air Chair for the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club.
The Homer City Generating Station released the most sulfur dioxide of any plant in the United States in 2010. Sulfur dioxide is a major air pollutant and is linked to respiratory illnesses, heart disease and asthma attacks. The station has also sued the EPA to block the implementation of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which would save lives and reduce healthcare costs by limiting the amount of pollution power plants are permitted to emit into downwind states.