t may not seem fair, but the state’s coal-fired power plants are going to have to pay higher fees because they are polluting less. The state Department of Environmental Protection can’t make enough money using pollution fees money run its fundamental permit programs anymore, so DEP has announced a plan to increase the fees for the top polluters from $56 per ton to $85. The problem is compounded by the Obama administration having driven so many coal-fired power plants out of business, leaving the remaining ones – the plants that have done things right – to pick up the slack.
The industry’s advocate, The Electric Power Generation Association, says it will not contest the fee increase. DEP will hold public hearings on the plans, inclduing one on March 5th at its office in Pittsburgh. The pollution fees are mandated by the federal and state governments and require producers to pay for their first 4,000 tons of pollution. When the program started in 1994 there were over 800 polluters on the list. Now there are 560.
It’s only a temporary fix. At least twelve coal-fired power plants are going to shut down within two years, leaving an even wider gap for the well-run plants to cover.
According to the DEP, Indiana County had four of the top seven polluters in southwestern PA in 2011, even though their output was considerably improved. Keystone Generating Station in Shelocta was the top air polluter, followed by the Conemaugh Generating Station in Seward. EME Homer City Generating Station was fourth, although it will see dramatic improvements when the current refit of the plant is completed. The Seward Generating Station was seventh.