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Settlement: Brunner Island must renew waste discharge permit
Dennis Ross may have to close his York Haven bait shop after Talen Energy closed access to popular fishing areas along the Susquehanna River at Brunner's Island.
A settlement between the state Department of Environmental Protection and a group of activist organizations will require Brunner Island Power Plant to renew a permit that allows it to discharge industrial waste into the Susquehanna River.
The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association was among the organizations that filed a lawsuit last June against the DEP seeking action on the expired permits of Brunner Island and nine other coal-fired power plants (Brunner added the ability to also burn natural gas last year).
Any facility that discharges any type of pollution into a Pennsylvania body of water must have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, which is required by the federal Clean Water Act to be renewed every five years, explained Ted Evgeniadis, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper.
The renewal process is important, he said, because the process involves ensuring that the plants have installed the best available technology to reduce pollution.
Talen Energy's Brunner Island in York Haven last renewed its NPDES permit in 2006, when it was still owned by PPL, and the permit should have expired in 2011, according to DEP records.
These 10 plants are all operating on expired permits, and Evgeniadis said the DEP had proposed giving them until 2022 or 2023 before issuing new permits.
"That's unacceptable to kick the can that far down the road," he said.
Under the settlement reached Thursday, Jan. 11, the DEP must issue draft permits to each of the 10 facilities by the end of 2018 and, to the best of its abilities, issue final permits by the end of March 2019.
The department will issue Brunner Island its draft permit Jan. 15, according to a schedule described in the settlement document.
The lawsuit could be reopened if the department doesn't issue the permits in a timely manner.
A spokesman for Talen Energy said in an email Thursday that the company was not party to the suit and did not have a comment on the settlement.
"As always, the plant is in compliance and prepared to continue to participate with PADEP in the normal permit renewal process," Todd Martin, Talen manager of media relations, wrote.
Evgeniadis called the settlement a "great win" for his association's environmental protection efforts because Brunner Island is one of the river's top dischargers of pollutants — including heavy metals and mercury — that can cause harm to aquatic creatures and humans.
— Reach David Weissman at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.