MAPLE Coalition members gather to support the EPA's finding that requires the Portland Generating Station in PA to greatly reduce its emissions of SO2. GenOn is challenging the EPA finding and data and science. See Press Release for further details.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 29, 2012
Victory for Clean Air: GenOn Energy to
Retire Seven Coal Plants
Pennsylvania – GenOn Energy Inc., a major nationwide energy generator, announced this morning that the company will retire seven of its oldest, dirtiest coal-fired power plants. These plants are located in Pennsylvania and Ohio, two states whose residents are most affected by pollution from coal-fired power plants.
GenOn announced the following retirements today during a meeting with investors: Portland, Shawville, Titus, New Castle and Elrama in Pennsylvania and Niles and Avon Lake in Ohio. In total, these retirements will bring 2,980 megawatts of dirty and dangerous coal pollution to an end.
Pollution from coal-fired power plants, including sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides and mercury, contributes to four of the five leading causes of death in the United States: heart attacks, stroke, respiratory illnesses and cancer. Closure of the seven plants will prevent more than 179 premature deaths, 300 heart attacks and 2,800 asthma attacks, according to data from the Clean Air Task Force. That same report estimated the total economic impact of premature deaths and disease from these plants at over $1.3 billion.
“Above all, this is a win for public health and for families who have been breathing polluted air from these outdated plants,” said Bruce Nilles, Senior Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “GenOn has recognized that operating outdated, dirty coal plants just doesn’t make economic sense anymore, especially in a time when constructing a wind farm is now cheaper than building a new coal plant. What matters now is ensuring that GenOn does the right thing and transitions these workers into the growing clean energy sector.”
One of these coal-fired power plants, the Portland Generating Station, is the subject of a landmark ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency requiring the plant to reduce the pollution it releases and stop it from carrying over from the plant's home state into New Jersey. The plant opposed that ruling, which was the first of its kind on a single-source emitter; the Sierra Club, in a coalition of environmental groups including Clean Air Council and Greenpeace, filed notice to join the lawsuit to defend EPA's ruling.
Greg Gorman, a local resident and activist in the MAPLE Coalition, which has fought the Portland plant’s pollution in two states, hailed the retirement announcement. “We at MAPLE applaud GenOn’s announcement to retire the Portland plant and say: it’s about time. Eliminating this source of pollution will mean a healthy future for residents and represents a forward step that will benefit our families and children.”
The retirements, the most recent in a wave of similar announcements from energy providers, come at a time when the nation’s share of clean energy is at a record high. “Today’s news is part of a national trend of clean energy replacing coal, with states like Iowa and South Dakota generate 20% of their electricity from wind," said Randy Francisco, Organizing Representative with the Beyond Coal Campaign in Pennsylvania. “Now is the time for Pennsylvania to establish itself as a leader in a clean energy economy that can put people back to work in good jobs in an industry that won’t pollute our air and water.”
Activists in both states also stressed the need for GenOn to ensure that its workforce will be transitioned into other employment when the plants are retired. “GenOn may have recognized that it just makes good economic sense for them to close these plants, but now they have the responsibility of making sure that their business decision doesn’t mean unemployment for their workers,” said Rashay Layman, Organizing Representative with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Ohio.
Coal plants are major sources of climate disruption and toxic air pollution like mercury, soot and carbon pollution. These seven plants bring the tally of coal plant retirements to 106 since the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign began work to responsibly retire coal-fired power plants and develop clean energy in 2010.