The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the Portland Generating Station in Northampton County to cut its sulfur dioxide emissions. Sulfur dioxide contributes to particle pollution, aggravating asthma and other respiratory illnesses. The Lehigh Valley plant has been one of the state’s greatest sources of sulfur dioxide, which the wind carries over to New Jersey.
In September 2010, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection had asked the EPA to step in and enforce the Clean Air Act due to the amount of air pollution the power plant sends across the Delaware River. The coal-fired plant is more than 50 years old, and the facility has not been updated with scrubbers, which reduce pollution.
The EPA says that by meeting the new rule, the Portland Generating Station will come into compliance with the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. But owners of the Portland plant could call it quits. The Express-Times reports that GenOn is weighing whether or not to convert the plant to natural gas. Installing scrubbers in the facility would cost between $400 and $500 million dollars, about the same amount that it would cost to build a new plant run on natural gas.