Energy. Environment. Economy.

Sierra Club, Brunner Island agree: Plant will move from coal to natural gas

PPL's Brunner Island  coal-fired plant located on the west bank of Susquehanna River.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

PPL's Brunner Island coal-fired plant, on the west bank of Susquehanna River, plans to stop burning coal by 2029.

A coal-fired power plant in York County has agreed to burn cleaner natural gas under a settlement reached with the Sierra Club.

The Brunner Island Power Plant had come under fire by environmentalists for air and water pollution.

The Sierra Club and Talen Energy, which operates the plant, have reached an agreement to avoid a lawsuit. Under the settlement, the plant by 2023 will burn gas instead of coal during the summer when ozone is at its worst. The facility will run solely on natural gas by 2029.

“Avoiding the cost of litigation is something we valued, but most importantly, our ability to settle this sooner than if we had gone to a full trial means that people will be breathing cleaner air at a quicker timeline,” said Patrick Grenter, a senior campaign representative with the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign.

By switching to gas, the plant will emit fewer pollutants like nitrogen oxide, which causes smog. Grenter said the transition will also alleviate concerns about pollution of the Susquehanna River from coal ash stored at the facility.

He lives about 20 miles from the plant, and has two young children.

“Knowing that they are going to grow up with cleaner air when they are outside playing during the summer months is certainly something that takes a weight off my mind,” he said.

A representative for Talen Energy said in a statement the company is “pleased the parties reached an agreement that eliminates the distraction of litigation or objections to permitting.”

“The agreement allows us to maximize the value and output of the station, as well as giving Brunner Island a clear path forward to sustainable operation,” spokesperson Todd Martin said.

The Sierra Club isn’t the only entity to take issue with pollution from Brunner Island. Several nearby states petitioned the matter last year to the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming the plant’s emissions affected their air quality. Connecticut also sued the EPA, and a federal judge ruled last week that the agency must act within 90 days.

“This settlement is going to be hugely impactful for people all around the plant and people all across the eastern seaboard who for years have suffered from the toxic air pollution coming from the Brunner Island coal plant,” Grenter said.


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