Sierra Club calls BL England one of worst polluters, wants it closed

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The BL England power plant in Beesleys Point has been targeted as one of the worst polluters in the state by the Sierra Club and local environmental organizations. The BL England power plant in Beesleys Point has been targeted as one of the worst polluters in the state by the Sierra Club and local environmental organizations.

BEESLEYS POINT – A spokesperson for the Sierra Club said Saturday that local environmental groups should push for the closure of the BL England power plant.

Christine Guhl, a national field organizer for the Sierra Club’s Coal to Clean Energy program, said the coal-fired power plant in Upper Township is one of the worst polluters in the state. Guhl spoke at a meeting organized by Citizens United for Renewable Energy (CURE) held Saturday at the Ocean City Community Center.

“It’s number five in the state for air emissions,” she said.

Guhl cited figures from an Environment New Jersey study showing the power plant produced 500,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, 2,500 tons of soot and smog, and 29 pounds of mercury a year. Ocean City, which is downwind of the plant, ranks 14th in the nation for per capita mortality risk from coal, she said.

BL England has until the end of 2013 to install new pollution controls. Specifically, the power plant must install a Selective Catalytic Reduction system and a particulate scrubber on one of its two coal-burning boilers.

The pollution controls could cost R.C. Cape May as much as $150 million.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had initially required the power plant’s owners, R.C. Cape May, a subsidiary of Texas-based Rockland Co., to complete the pollution control upgrades in May of last year. The company signed a consent order to finish the upgrades when it bought the plant for $12 million from Conectiv Power in 2006.

Because of the recession, the company was able to get the upgrades postponed until 2013. At that time, R.C. Cape May will have to install the pollution controls, convert the power plant to natural gas, or close the plant, said Guhl.

“We want them to close the plant,” she said. “BL England is one of the dirtiest coal plants in the country. These smaller plants, privately owned are usually the worst of the worst.”

The plant has a 130 MW coal boiler built in 1962 and a 160 MW boiler built in 1964. It also has an oil burning generator.

“These controls were supposed to be done by 2010. Rockland said they don’t have any money, we need more time. The DEP does not consider funds a valid reason for not complying with the Clean Air Act but they got the extension,” Guhl added.

The Sierra Club has petitioned federal regulators to reverse the DEP’s decision waiving the upgrades until 2013.

R.C. Cape May has spent $7 million in maintenance and repairs and $29 million in environmental controls since buying the plant in 2007, according to reports.

Mayor Richard Palombo said R.C. Cape May has also submitted a petition to the state BPU (Board of Public Utilities) to convert its two coal-burning boilers to oil.

“There is also a bill passed to have the state’s four coal plants receive grant money to convert to natural gas, which (R.C. Cape May) has also applied for,” he said. “Obviously we want them to convert to address pollution.”

Palombo said that Upper Township Committee could pass a resolution supporting the conversion to oil or natural gas.

The BL England power plant employs approximately 95 people. It is also the reason why Upper Township has received more than $6 million annually from the state in the form of Energy Receipt Taxes. The Energy Receipt Taxes helped Upper Township avoid a local purpose tax for years.

The loss of the power plant could mean the loss of state aid. But Guhl said the township receives the Energy Receipt Taxes for hosting a power generating station, not because the power plant uses coal and produces pollution. A solar or wind farm at the site would make Upper Township eligible for the state aid too, she said.

“Aid comes in because it’s a utility, not because it’s a coal burning plant,” Guhl said. “Renewables work too.”

A power plant closure would have to be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a process which could take five to 10 years.

Palombo said it is important that BL England continue operating to avoid problems of power reliability.

“Oyster Creek is closing, New Jersey always has reliability problems,” he said.

Guhl questioned what happened to a plan to install solar panels at the BL England golf course, which was announced last January.

Under the plan R.C. Cape May would build a 4 MW photovoltaic solar generating facility adjacent to the 447 MW BL England Generation Station. The solar facility would have utilized 21 acres of the 442 acre site.

Sierra Club’s Coal to Clean Energy program has stopped 150 coal power plants from being built, Guhl said. Renewable energy sources like solar or wind could take over for fossil fuels if given the chance, she said.

“People say renewables should be able to stand on their own but fossil fuels receive subsidies still,” she said.

A recent Harvard Medical School article calculated there are $175 to $500 billion in associated public health costs from pollution, she said.



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