Delaware seeks to lower ozone emissions from West Virginia power plant

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HarrisonPowerStationViewFromEastDelaware and its Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control have filed a petition asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to find that the coal-fired Harrison Power Station near Haywood, WV, is emitting pollutants in violation of the federal Clean Air Act and National Ambient Air Quality Standard for harmful ozone.

As was the case with the  CAA 126 petition filed last month by DNREC against the Brunner Island power plant in York County, PA., the Delaware Department of  Natural Resources argues that Delaware’s air quality is often adversely affected every summer by ozone coming from the plants.

Harrison has one of the tallest smokestacks in the world, a factor in spreading pollution. Delaware has argued that the two coal plants lack emission controls that would cut ozone discharges or do not operate those controls effectively.

DNREC’s latest petition notes that all emission sources within the state are “well controlled” but that outside sources skew the state’s air quality readings and bring health issues.

DNREC Secretary David Small again noted in the 126 petition that more than 94 percent of the ozone levels in Delaware are created by the transport of air pollutants from upwind states.

Delaware has only one coal-fired power plant near Millsboro.

“We are again petitioning the EPA to act on the fact that our ability to achieve and maintain health-based air quality standards is severely impacted by sources outside of the state of Delaware,” Small said. “Our position has been corroborated by EPA’s own modeling technology – that West Virginia’s emissions significantly impact Delaware – and we are petitioning EPA to reduce that impact and the encompassing health threats foisted on Delawareans through harmful ozone that comes from outside our borders.”

Small also said that Delaware is continuing to assess the impact of other electric generating facilities in the upwind states and that additional Clean Air Act 126 petitions may be developed in the near future. Some of the states where these power plants exist do not have regulatory requirements for installing NOx emissions controls, while still other states do not require the power plants to consistently operate existing NOx controls at high levels of efficiency.

West Virginia had proposed more stringent NOx emissions limitations for the Harrison power plant. However, DNREC’s Division of Air Quality reviewed the proposed NOx emission rate limitations and determined that even if implemented, the new rate limits will not help Delaware.

Delaware’s 126 petition to EPA also notes that the Harrison Power Station is outfitted with very effective post-combustion NOx emissions controls, but that the facility does not consistently operate those controls.

Health issues are central in Delaware’s appeals to EPA. Short-term exposure to ozone such as Delaware experiences each summer can cause rapid, shallow breathing and related airway irritation, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and exacerbation of asthma, particularly in sensitive individuals and asthmatic children. Short term-exposure also suppresses the immune system, making bodily defenses vulnerable to bacterial infections. Children, the elderly, those with chronic lung disease, and asthmatics are especially susceptible to the pulmonary effects of ozone exposure, DNREC stated.

Section 126(b) of the Clean Air Act requires that within 60 days after the EPA’s receipt of any petition (and after a public hearing), the EPA administrator will make such a finding as requested, requiring the Harrison Power Station to limit short-term NOx emissions.

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