Mitigation for Ecosystem Damage Caused by Coal-Fired Power Plants

It is well documented that coal-fired power plants cause acid rain, which increases the acidity of freshwater lakes, ponds and streams, stressing freshwater ecosystems. It also reduces forest canopy cover and decreases the CO2–absorbing capabilities of plants. In northern New Jersey, acid rain contributes to low pH levels; pH levels lower than 4.5 will not support fish populations in damages. Several NJ waterways are impaired due to low pH. Reducing acid rain will improve this situation.

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accepted a petition by NJDEP to force the Pennsylvania GenOn Energy Plant to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions. The emissions from this plant, located in Pennsylvania, have resulted in a contravention of air quality standards set by the USEPA, and have resulted in pollution disbursement over Northern New Jersey and in particular, Warren County. (This information was determined through extensive air quality modeling by the NJDEP).

The UEPA’s has proposed a rule would require this plant to cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 81 percent over a three-year period, greatly reducing future air quality and acid rain problems in New Jersey. However, the proposed rule doesn’t go far enough, in that there is no requirement for past damages to be mitigated.

At ERG, we propose that in addition to cutting future emissions, the Pennsylvania GenOn Energy Plant be required to mitigate by purchasing mitigation credits from NJ mitigation banks to offset the loss of ecosystem services that has occurred to date. Likewise, any other plants that are contributing to the SO2, whether, out of state or in-state, should be required to do the same.

Let us know what you think; better yet, express your views at the upcoming public hearing scheduled for April 27th in Oxford, New Jersey.

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