State files lawsuit against EPA to reduce pollution from Pennsylvania coal plant

Connecticut has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court, District of Connecticut against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failure to take timely action on a petition from Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) asking the EPA to take action to stop pollution from a Pennsylvania coal-fired power plant from blowing our way.

The filing was made yesterday with the United States District Court, District of Connecticut, by the Office of the Connecticut Attorney General.  In the action, the Attorney General claims that EPA has failed to act on a Clean Air Act Section 126 petition filed by Connecticut with EPA on June 1, 2016. The petition asked EPA to require the Brunner Island Steam Electric Station in York County, Pennsylvania to reduce air pollution generated from its three coal-fired electric generating units because they contribute to bad air quality and public health issues in Connecticut.

“We are entering the season of hot summer days when ozone pollution is at its worst and Connecticut was counting on upwind emissions reductions from this coal plant to reduce nitrogen oxide, a main precursor to ozone formation,” said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee. “EPA’s lack of action continues the exposure of our citizens to unhealthy air when it is clear that this plant significantly contributes to our pollution and needs to be controlled.”

The Attorney General’s office had sent a citizen suit notice on March 9, 2017 notifying EPA of the State’s intention to sue if EPA did not act on the Section 126 petition within 60 days.

In filing the lawsuit, Attorney General George Jepsen said, “The EPA’s failure to act on the petition has harmed and continues to harm our State and its citizens and residents, by delaying action to address the interstate transport of air pollution from Brunner Island.  This pollution significantly contributes to nonattainment of the 2008 ozone NAAQS in Connecticut, to the detriment of the health and welfare of everyone in our state.”


Under Section 126 of the federal Clean Air Act, states can petition the EPA Administrator for a finding that a stationary source in another state emits or would emit an air pollutant in violation of the Act. The Administrator must make the requested finding or deny the petition within 60 days after receipt of the petition, and after a public hearing. Once EPA makes a finding, the Act requires that the violating source not operate three months after the finding regardless of whether the source has been operating under a duly issued state operating permit. The Administrator may allow the source to operate beyond such time only if the source complies with emission limitations and compliance schedules as the Administrator may direct to bring about compliance.

Brunner Island Power Plant

The Brunner Island Steam Electric Station owned by Talen Energy is a bituminous coal-fired electricity generating facility located in York County in Southeastern Pennsylvania on the Susquehanna River. The plant has three major boiler units that commenced operating in 1961, 1965 and 1969, and have a combined capacity of over 1500 MW. Brunner Island is the sixth largest coal plant in the state, and the three coal-fired electric generating units (“EGUs”) at Brunner Island together emitted about 11,000 tons of NOx in 2014. By comparison, Connecticut’s largest NOx EGU facility emitted less than 600 tons in 2014, and the total NOx emissions from all point sources combined in Connecticut was 8,800 tons.