Environmentalists say U.S. rush to build coal plants imperils N.J. air

Environmentalists say U.S. rush to build coal plants imperils N.J. air

Environmentalists predict dire consequences for New Jersey’s air quality if more than 150 proposed coal power plants are built across the country. On Thursday, they urged the state to lead by example and ban new coal plants here.

The activists said pollution from proposed coal plants will exacerbate global warming by 10 percent in the United States, and said New Jersey should not sue Midwestern states over power plant emissions carried eastward if it allows similar sources of pollution at home.

“How good is it to sue Ohio when we are going to allow new coal plants in new Jersey,” asked Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “If we’re fighting dirty coal in Ohio, we have to fight it here.”

Eight states, including New Jersey, sued Ohio-based American Electric Power last year, charging the country’s largest power generator with breaking clean air rules by failing to cut emissions at plants said to foul the air in the Northeast. AEP’s refusal to install new pollution controls means the nine coal-fired plants continue to spew sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and soot that cause acid rain, smog and haze downwind from Ohio, the suit contends.

AEP has argued that recent work it did to modify its plants was routine maintenance and did not require installation of expensive new pollution controls.

Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson said the state lacks the authority to impose moratoriums on private industry, but that it can impose restrictions and enforce regulations.

“I’m not sure how we would have the authority to tell someone, “You can’t apply for permits to build a plant,”‘ she said. “But we can regulate that plant. Certainly, any new coal has to be scrutinized.”

One of the environmental groups, New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, released a report Thursday detailing the rush to build new coal-fired plants. Spurred on by favorable federal regulations and economic incentives, more than 150 such plants have been proposed nationwide, including two in South Jersey.

The two N.J. sites are a 300-acre tract in West Deptford being bought by LS Power and a now-shuttered coal plant in Cape May County.

“The rush to build new coal generation would take us in the wrong direction on energy policy, here in New Jersey and around the nation,” said Dena Mottola, executive director of NJPIRG.

Less than one-fifth of New Jersey’s power was supplied by coal in 2004, the most recent year for which figures are available.

Share this post