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October 01, 2003
Plant permit not tough enough, EPA says


Three federal agencies have concluded that a proposed state permit for a new Morgantown power plant is not stringent enough.

Among other criticisms, federal regulators say the Longview Power project could slash its nitrogen oxide emissions in half and sulfur dioxide emissions by a third.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that Longview should install more pollution controls and run other equipment more efficiently.

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On Monday, EPA officials joined the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service in criticizing a draft state permit for the Longview plant.

Previously, park and forest officials complained that plant emissions would harm visibility and cause acid rain in the Otter Creek and Dolly Sods wilderness areas and in Shenandoah National Park.

Both agencies repeated those concerns in letters sent to the state Department of Environmental Protection on Monday, the last day of a public comment period on the draft permit.

Clyde Thompson, supervisor of the Monongahela National Forest, praised the Longview proposal as “a relatively clean one, and much more desirable than many older plants.”

But, Thompson said, his agency’s review found that the plant’s air emissions would “cause adverse impacts” to visibility at Dolly Sods and Otter Creek.

Thompson said his staff also determined that the emissions would add to acid rain that has already polluted streams in the wilderness areas.

In a separate letter, Assistant Interior Secretary Craig Manson said that the project would have similar impacts on the Shenandoah. The park service is part of the U.S. Interior Department.

“We consider impacts to visibility and aquatic resources to be adverse because they would diminish the national significance of Shenandoah National Park, potentially impair the structure and function of the ecosystem and the quality of the visitor experience to that area,” Manson wrote.

DEP officials said Tuesday that they were not ready to respond to the federal agencies’ concerns.

“I think we need to thoroughly review all of the comments,” said John Benedict, director of the DEP Division of Air Quality. “Some of that is stuff that we have to look at and digest.”

There is no firm timeline for making a decision on a final permit, Benedict said.

Needham, Mass.-based GenPower LLC wants to build the Longview plant along the Monongahela River near Maidsville, north of Morgantown.

The $900 million facility would generate 600 megawatts of electricity, about enough to power 480,000 homes at peak production.

Last month, DEP announced that it had preliminarily approved Longview’s air pollution permit.

Under the draft approval, the plant could emit more than 19 million pounds of air pollution per year, including 6.4 million pounds of sulfur dioxide and 4.3 million pounds of nitrogen oxides.

Longview and DEP say that the plant would use the “best available control technology” to reduce emissions to those levels.

In a letter to DEP, EPA regional air permit chief David Campbell said that the company and DEP were wrong. Campbell said that DEP should have required GenPower to include additional pollution control used by several nearby power plants.

In his letter, Campbell said that the company could use magnesium-enhanced lime to eliminate another 2 million pounds of sulfur dioxide emissions.

The process would be similar to one used at the nearby Allegheny Energy Harrison Power Station outside Clarksburg, Campbell said.

Also, Campbell said, nitrogen oxide emissions could be reduced by 2 million pounds with more efficient equipment than that proposed by GenPower.

In a separate comment letter, the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment warned that the plant would worsen already bad smog, or ground-level ozone, conditions in the Morgantown area.

“Monitoring data shows that Morgantown is dangerously close to slipping into non-attainment for the ozone standard,” wrote Wendy Radcliff, a lawyer with the center. “This Longview power plant will cause an increase in the ground-level ozone.

“An increase in the amount of ground-level ozone will drive more people to the hospital on high-ozone days, it could cause every Morgantown area resident to install expensive pollution control equipment on their cars, and it may cause development in the Morgantown area to come to a screeching halt,” Radcliff wrote.

To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., use or call 348-1702.

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