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PA Tightens Controls on Smog-Causing Pollution

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Two-thirds of Pennsylvanians live in areas that fail to meet federal safeguards for smog pollution. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Wikimedia Commons
Two-thirds of Pennsylvanians live in areas that fail to meet federal safeguards for smog pollution. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Wikimedia Commons
 By Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA - Producer, Contact
November 18, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board approved a new rule on Tuesday that will reduce smog-causing pollution from most coal-fired power plants, but gave one of the biggest sources a pass.

Nitrogen Oxide, or NOx, is particularly harmful to children, seniors and those with heart disease or respiratory problems. Tom Schuster, senior campaign director for the Sierra Club, explains the rule will require power plants that have pollution controls installed to actually use them.

"A lot of them had elected to meet regional pollution regulations by purchasing allowances rather than cutting their pollution at the source," says Schuster.

But the rule will not apply to the Brunner Island power plant, the largest source of NOx pollution in southeastern Pennsylvania, because it has not installed the equipment to reduce those emissions.

According to Schuster, that plant contributes to smog pollution in places as far away as Philadelphia.

"It has added pollution to already bad-air days," says Schuster. "And in some cases, even is the difference between an air quality action alert and a normal day."

Schuster says after the new rule goes into effect the Brunner Island plant will be the largest stationary source of NOx pollution in the state, by far. Besides allowing the plant to continue polluting the air, he believes the exemption sets a worrisome precedent.

"You're basically saying if you lag behind your peer sources in installing pollution controls, then you will be held to a weaker standard somewhere down the road," says Schuster.

The Sierra Club says about two-thirds of Pennsylvanians live in areas that currently fail to meet federal safeguards for smog pollution.

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