DEP Secretary Michael Krancer used blunt language in a September letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, accusing her agency of being “bull-headed” in its continuing legal fight against the big baseload power plant in Indiana County about 45 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
Environmental groups like the Sierra Club long have railed against Homer City, claiming it is one of the “dirtiest” power plants in the country. Instead of cleaning the plant up, they want it shut down. A year ago, a federal judge dismissed a Clean Air Act lawsuit against the plant, ruling the statute of limitations had run out on alleged air pollution violations. The EPA, however, wasted no time in appealing to a federal appellate court to reverse the decision.
Krancer said it’s time for the feds to leave Homer City and its owner—ownership of the plant is being transferred from Edison Mission Energy, a subsidiary of California-based Edison International, to GE Energy Financial Services—alone. He noted that DEP last April approved $725 million in pollution control improvements at the 43-year-old facility. That work is scheduled for completion in 2014.
EME, which has operated the plant since 1999, says the upgrades will make Homer City one of the cleanest coal plants in the country. Once scrubbers are installed on the plant’s three units, Homer City’s sulfur-dioxide emissions are expected to be slashed by more than 90%.
Krancer, referring to the scrubbers, urged Jackson to stop attacking the plant because “a great victory has already been won with respect to Homer City. SO2 controls are being installed which will result in a dramatic decrease in emissions.”
All three units already are equipped with electrostatic precipitators to reduce particulate matter emissions, and they are fitted with selective catalytic reduction equipment to lower emissions of nitrogen oxide.
Homer City enjoys strong backing locally, partly because of the hundreds of plant and coal mining jobs it provides and the millions of dollars in taxes it generates for the local, county and state government. The Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, formed earlier this year from the merger of the Pennsylvania Coal Association and Families Organized to Represent the Coal Economy, also is a strong supporter.