Protesters push EPA on its order to Pa. coal-burning plant

Protesters arrived on the doorstep of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office in Philadelphia Thursday. But they were there to support the agency, in a way.

Neighbors of a Pennsylvania coal power plant in Upper Mount Bethel Township on the Delaware River want the agency to make the coal-power facility clean up its act.

The neighbors, who hail from New Jersey, have been irritated by emissions from the smokestacks blowing across the state border.

Greg Gorman, a member of the delegation, said there’s a great fishing spot just under a mile from the plant on the New Jersey side, as the fish swims.

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“The first time I went [to] the Pequest [River] — that’s one of the best trout streams in New Jersey — looking forward to it, I was wondering why my eyes were watering,” he said. “It wasn’t because I was sad, that’s for sure.”

The substance at issue is sulfur dioxide, which can damage the respiratory system and worsen asthma. The key tool to reduce emissions would be installation of expensive filters called “scrubbers.”

Called in by the state of New Jersey, the EPA recently ordered plant operator, GenOn Energy, to make major changes within three years.

The company promptly filed an appeal with the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the agency’s order. Attorney James Duffy, with the Clean Air Council, said the company doesn’t have to state its specific objections yet. He said, however, the company has aired public complaints about the compliance deadlines set by the EPA.

Gorman said Thursday he had come to tell the EPA to hold its ground against the plant’s operator.

“When we’re children we make a mess, we’re told to clean it up, you know?” said Gorman. “Here these guys know (they’ve been) making a mess for over 60 years. They should just clean it up. It’s just a good-neighbor policy.”

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