US Power company to spend over US$337 million to cut emissions

A US power company is to spend just over US$337 million on eliminating the vast majority of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from two New Jersey power plants, following an agreement reached with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).

Under the agreement, the Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) Fossil will reduce its sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 90% and its emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) by over 80%, producing reductions of 36,000 tonnes of SO2 and 18,000 tonnes of NOx every year. According to the EPA, these decreases will represent 19% of all the SO2 and 5% of all the NOx currently being produced in the state, including from vehicles.

The settlement resolves allegations brought by the EPA and the State of New Jersey that the two power plants were unlawfully operating due to the lack of pollution controls or proper permits required under the Clean Air Act.

“This agreement is an excellent example of how effective federal and state partnerships in enforcement actions can greatly benefit the environment and assure public health protection,” said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. “Today’s agreement will improve the air quality for those who live around the Mercer and Hudson plants.”

PSEG Power will now install flue gas desulphurisation scrubbers, beginning in 2006; and selective catalytic reduction systems to control NOx by 2004. The company will also upgrade the effectiveness of its existing control devices for particulates and install an additional device to eliminate over 1,000 tonnes per year of particulates, starting this year. In addition, PSEG will also retire pollution emission allowances and credits used to emit additional pollution into the environment.

As well as the pollution reduction costs, PSEG Power has also agreed to pay a fine of US$1.4 million and to spend at least US$6 million on three additional projects that will partly offset the impact of past emissions. These projects are: a 15% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions; the recovery and use of methane gas from landfills; and the development of technology to reduce and monitor emissions of mercury from the company’s plants.

“This important settlement reflects our continuing commitment to enforce vigorously the Clean Air Act to protect public health and the environment,” said Attorney General John Ashcroft.

“PSEG negotiated in good faith and demonstrated a willingness to put litigation considerations aside and to act quickly to improve the health of New Jersey’s citizens and the quality of air they breathe,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We hope other utilities follow PSEG’s lead.”

According to PSEG, the move is part of the company’s continuing environmental leadership. The company is the leading industry advocate for reducing power plant air emissions, according to a PSEG statement.

“Interpretation and application of NSR regulations have been a difficult problem for the entire electric power industry,” said President and Chief Operating Officer of PSEG Power, Frank Cassidy. “Maintenance activities performed over time at Hudson and Mercer were conducted in good faith. We believe our activities were in accord with the law as it was understood. The decision we faced was whether to devote resources to protracted and costly litigation around this point or resolve the issue by presenting EPA and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection with an action plan implementing the technologies and the programmes we know should be part of our industry’s future.”

During the last decade, PSEG focused on reducing seasonal NOx, setting and achieving a voluntary target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2000, and the company states that it is on course to meet the NJDEP’s call for a 90% reduction by 2003, said Cassidy. The company has also supported tighter national ambient air quality standards for ozone and particulates, Cassidy added.

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