Environmental groups slam Pa. smog proposal as lax

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 16, 2014 at 5:16 pm •  Published: April 16, 2014

Environmental groups say Pennsylvania's federally mandated plan to reduce smog would allow coal-fired power plants to emit more pollution than they do now.

The state has been working on a proposal to curb ground-level ozone in 17 counties where the federal government says smog levels remain too high and pose a health risk to the young, the elderly, people with asthma and others. The proposed regulations will be published Saturday.

The Sierra Club, the American Lung Association and other groups say that proposed emissions limits for coal-fired power plants are too lax. The biggest plants would be allowed to release more than 130,000 tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxides annually — 40 percent more than they do now, according to an analysis by the Sierra Club.

Produced during combustion, nitrogen oxides, or NOx, combine with volatile organic compounds to form ground-level ozone, which can worsen such respiratory conditions as bronchitis and asthma. The primary culprits are vehicle exhaust and electrical power plants.

Power plants "are the single largest source of smog-causing pollution and they are not being meaningfully addressed," Sierra Club spokeswoman Kim Teplitzky said Wednesday. "That they would even put this into a draft is astounding."

Power companies say they have already taken steps to reduce emissions at coal-fired plants.

FirstEnergy, the Ohio-based company that owns Pennsylvania's largest electric power plant, the Bruce Mansfield facility in Shippingport, has already reduced nitrogen oxides by 80 percent and plans to install another $465 million worth of new environmental controls companywide, said company spokeswoman Stephanie Walton.

PPL Corp.'s coal-fired power plants have reduced nitrogen oxides emissions by 19 percent over five years, said George Lewis, spokesman for the Allentown-based utility.