After a year of litigation, the Homer City Generating Station, the largest source of sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution in the entire country in 2010, will now be subject to a precedent setting hourly limit for SO2 pollution. The new protections aim to ensure that the coal-fired power plant never exceeds Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health standards for sulfur dioxide, even during startup and shutdown, protecting the health of families across the region.
The new protections set a national precedent in the fight to secure the health and safety of families in coal-dependent Pennsylvania and beyond. These new conditions to the Homer City permit are among the first in the nation to set hourly limits on SO2 emissions. Sulfur dioxide is one of the most dangerous pollutants to come from coal-fired power plants. Just five minutes of exposure can lead to respiratory problems, difficulty breathing, contribute to lung disease and cause heart attacks. In 2010, EPA issued a new 1-hour SO2 health standard based on scientific evidence that linked short-term exposure to sulfur dioxide with these adverse health effects. EPA expected the new standard to benefit millions of Americans, in particular, children, the elderly, and asthmatics.
The Homer City power plant has two coal-fired units that, until recently, have had no controls for limiting the emission of SO2. In 2010, these units emitted more than 109,000 tons of SO2, making Homer City the largest source of SO2 emissions in the country that year. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has determined that Indiana County is violating the SO2 health standard, and EPA recently recommended that the county be designated as failing to attain this standard.