Lauren Fraley
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PennFuture, Sierra Club, and NRDC slam EPA for proposing a free pass for toxic air pollution

May 24, 2012

(Philadelphia, PA - May 24, 2012) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released draft proposed rules this week that would create special loopholes for dirty diesel and gas electricity generators, allowing them to avoid installing pollution controls for toxic and other air pollution emissions.

“These proposed rules sacrifice local air quality and public health, distort energy markets, and could endanger electricity reliability in our region,” said Christina Simeone, director of the PennFuture Energy Center, a program of Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future.

Several years ago, EPA adopted rules limiting the amount of toxic air emissions – like formaldehyde and benzene – that are released from small diesel and gas-fired generators. EPA is now proposing to allow dirty generators to increase by six times the number of hours they may operate in electricity planning programs without any pollution controls.

“EPA’s proposal would create a loophole allowing dirty generators to participate in profitable electricity market programs, giving them additional revenue while avoiding life-saving pollution controls,” said Courtney Lane, senior policy analyst at PennFuture.

Supporters of the rules claim that allowing these generators to avoid pollution controls will allay concerns about electric reliability. This claim ignores reality. Electricity planning programs secure energy supply up to three years in advance, in order to ensure the grid will have enough power to be reliable in the future. It defies credulity to deem a dirty generator necessary for emergencies up to three years in advance. In fact, PJM Interconnection, the largest electric grid operator in the United States, last week released the results of its auction for generation capacity, showing more than enough supply needed to meet peak electricity needs many years into the future. 

“The loophole in these rules could result in reduced reliability and will result in increased air pollution, by making the electricity system more dependent on small, dirty sources of electricity. Closing this loophole will send market signals to invest in cleaner generation and conservation while better protecting Americans’ health,” said John Walke, clean air director and senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

“Nobody gets a free pass,” said Mark Kresowik, eastern region deputy director for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. “Even the local operators of the electric grid say that our energy supply is secure. Don't tell mothers that the only way to ensure a stable electric supply is to put their kids’ health in danger. Owners of these dirty generators need to play by the same rules as everyone else and figure out how to make money without dumping benzene in our air and water. The technologies exist to reduce this pollution, and that's why EPA should close the loophole.”
PennFuture, NRDC and the Sierra Club will be pressing the EPA to reconsider this proposed loophole in the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants program for Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines.

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