States petition EPA to limit Brunner Island emissions

David Weissman
  • Delaware and Connecticut both file petitions with EPA to force Brunner Island to reduce emissions.
  • Brunner Island in final stages of converting plant to co-fire, to use coal and/or natural gas.
  • Stats show Brunner Island produced more NO than all of Connecticut sources combined in 2014.

York Haven's Brunner Island Power Plant is officially straining Pennsylvania's relationships with neighboring states.

Brunner Island

On Friday, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced that it had filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to find that Brunner Island significantly contributes to Delaware's unhealthy ozone concentrations, according to a departmental news release.

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection filed a similar petition in early June, according to a separate news release.

Both were filed under Section 126 of the federal Clean Air Act, which allows the EPA to issue emission limits on sources from one state causing significant pollution in another state.

The Sierra Club, an environmental organization, refers to these petitions as "Good Neighbor petitions."

Report: Brunner Island causing excessive smog; proposed changes not enough

Sierra Club spokesman Mark Kresowik said air quality models show that Brunner Island's coal-fired plants heavily contribute to other states' air quality issues, and those states have tried for years to resolve those issues.

"This shows that they're frustrated with the pace of that progress," Kresowik said.

Dennis Schain, spokesman for Connecticut's DEEP, said there are days when the winds bring enough pollution being produced in other states that Connecticut's air quality would violate the national standard "even if no one in our state got out of bed and did anything the whole day."

Connecticut's ozone exceeded eight-hour maximums imposed by federal law 22 times in 2015 and 13 times already in 2016, according to state records.

The DEEP's news release notes that Brunner Island emitted approximately 11,000 tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxide (NOx) in 2014, while the total NOx emissions from all Connecticut sources combined in 2014 was 8,800 tons.

Both states' releases note that Brunner Island has failed to install the modern NOx controls that most other coal-fired plants now utilize.

Delaware's NRG Indian River facility installed modern controls in 2010 and reduced its annual NOx emissions by upward of 80 percent, according to department statistics.

Todd Martin, a spokesman for Talen Energy, which owns Brunner Island, wrote in an email that its plant is in compliance with all applicable laws, regulations and operating permits.

"Talen Energy is committed to environmental stewardship and to minimizing the impact from our operations," he wrote.

Talen Energy to be acquired

Martin also noted that Talen is in the final stages of converting Brunner Island into a co-fire plant, allowing it to operate on coal or natural gas or a combination of the two.

A Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection rule (RACT) limiting the amount of NOx plants can produce recently became official, but Sierra Club officials have noted that the rule includes a loophole that doesn't hold Brunner Island accountable.

The rule only applies to plants that already have NOx controls in place, meaning Brunner Island can continue to emit more NOx pollution than the new rule allows, according to Sierra Club spokesman Tom Schuster.

Sierra Club officials have advocated for Pennsylvania's DEP to close that loophole, which would likely force Brunner Island to install controls or switch to natural gas entirely.

The petitions, if granted by the EPA, would require Brunner Island to significantly reduce its NOx emissions in no more than three years, according to the Connecticut DEEP's news release. The EPA has 60 days from receipt to grant or deny each state's petition.

Martin wrote that Talen is aware of the petitions and is conducting its own assessment of the technical merits of the representations made in them, but the company will not speculate on any outcome that could result from EPA determinations on the petitions.

Connecticut and Delaware also each filed separate petitions with the EPA in emission-reducing efforts, but neither is related to specific plants.

— Reach David Weissman at or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.