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Elaine Labalme
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PennFuture, Environmental Integrity Project Launch Legal Action to Stop Massive Air Pollution from Bruce Mansfield Power Plant

May 22, 2007

Local Citizens under Barrage of Air Contamination

Harrisburg, PA (May 22, 2007) — Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), with the support of the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), today announced that it intends to sue FirstEnergy for massive air pollution violations at its Bruce Mansfield plant in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. PennFuture sent the legally required 60-day notice letter to the company, as well as to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), asserting that the plant’s air discharges violate the federal Clean Air Act and the Pennsylvania Air Pollution Control Act. This citizen suit is permitted under the law when governmental authorities have failed to enforce the law as required.

Records provided by FirstEnergy show that the Bruce Mansfield plant released harmful and illegal air pollution at least 257 times between November 22, 2002 and March 29, 2007. On July 22, 2006, residents in a five mile radius of the plant were deluged with “black rain,” which damaged homes, automobiles, crops, livestock and other vegetation and structures. Penn State University officials warned residents not to sell, butcher or eat livestock that had been exposed to the black rain, and farmers were instructed to throw away any crops or honey that had been exposed.

Susan Bird of Raccoon talked about her fears of living under the clouds of dangerous air pollution. “When I was pregnant with my first child I was living 40 miles away. But when I was pregnant with my two younger sons, I was living one mile from the Bruce Mansfield power plant. Our first child is healthy, but our two younger sons have neurological disorders. 

“As any parent, I want my children to be healthy and happy. I want them to live long lives. But I worry that healthy, happy and productive lives might be an impossible dream due to the pollution we are all forced to breathe. How will long, healthy lives be possible when state environmental officials tell us to mow our lawns with breathing protection? Mowing our lawns with breathing protection — does that really sound safe to you?” she asked rhetorically.

Ralph Hysong of the Action Committee to Improve the Environment of Beaver County agreed, “Living near the Bruce Mansfield power plant, I suffer from loss of taste and smell, inflammation of the mucus membrane of the nose, horny growths on the skin, and constant sinus drainage.  I believe our local environment is to blame.

“Our family has been force to make lifestyle changes due to pollution from the Bruce Mansfield plant. We limit the time our grandchildren are permitted to play outside.  We no longer grow a garden or have fruit trees, especially after last year’s major upset that spewed grimy ash for several miles.”

Hysong continued, “We want government to do its job and enforce the laws designed to protect our health. It’s a sad day when citizens have to sue to get the environmental and health protections guaranteed them by state and federal pollution laws.”

"Last July's soot explosion was the exclamation point on a long record of pollution," said Charles McPhedran, Senior Attorney for PennFuture. "The plant's own records show that it persistently violates standards meant to protect the health of its neighbors. This disregard for state and federal law, and for the health of people trying to breathe nearby, must stop."

"PennFuture has had to pick up the slack left when the Bush Administration ordered EPA staff to drop investigations of FirstEnergy and other big power plants around the country,” said EIP Director Eric Schaeffer. “PennFuture deserves a lot of credit for taking action on what is really a life and death matter for Pennsylvania's families."

The FirstEnergy pollution violates both federal and state law, persistently exceeding the limits for opacity (visible air contaminants). Local residents have long complained of the effect of these pollutants on their homes and property, and recently have expressed concerns about their health. Under the law, the company and the government agencies have 60 days to develop a plan to correct the violations before a lawsuit can be filed. A copy of the letter of intent to sue FirstEnergy, with details of the air pollution violations, is available on PennFuture's website.

PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization that advances policies to protect and improve the state’s environment and economy. PennFuture’s activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state and federal courts, advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level, public education and assisting citizens in public advocacy.

The Environmental Integrity Project (http://www.environmentalintegrity.org) is a non-profit non-partisan organization dedicated to stronger enforcement of existing federal and state anti-pollution laws, and to the prevention of political interference with those laws. EIP's research and reports shed light on how enforcement and rulemaking affect public health. EIP also works closely with communities seeking enforcement of environmental laws.
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