PA Environmental News Roundup

  • Governor Tom Corbett. Photo: PA National Guard via Flickr.

December 13, 2013

It’s been a big week for environmental news out of Harrisburg. Governor Tom Corbett's pick to oversee Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection sailed through Senate confirmation. Chris Abruzzo has been acting secretary of DEP since March. His nomination came under fire last week when he told a Senate panel that he's not sure climate change is a threat to humans.

Governor Corbett was the only Republican to join a multi-state effort to fight air pollution from upwind states.

From StateImpact PA: Eight democratic governors signed a petition Monday calling on the EPA to expand the Ozone Transport Region(OTR) to nine states in the Midwest. The OTR is a group of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states–including Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey–that are held to some of the country’s strictest air pollution standards.

The governors who have signed the petition say despite working to reduce emissions, air quality in the the OTR continues to violate federal standards because of pollution that is blown from Midwestern states with less stringent requirements for coal-fired power plants and vehicle exhaust systems.

The petition was delivered the EPA in Washington, D.C. yesterday. At the time, Corbett’s Energy Executive Patrick Henderson said the administration was still considering whether or not to sign it.

In a press release, Corbett said Tuesday he is committed “to protecting air quality and the health of Pennsylvania residents.”

“Signing this petition reflects that commitment, and our hope is that the EPA will level the playing field by ensuring other states are being good neighbors by abiding to the same standards we have in Pennsylvania,” Corbett said.

Republican Governor Chris Christie from New Jersey has not signed the petition.

Also this week: An air pollution lawsuit initiated at coal burning power plant in Homer City, PA, about an hour east of Pittsburgh, got a hearing in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The EME Homer City power plant is one of the largest emitters of sulfur dioxide in the country. When the EPA created rules to reduce cross-state pollution a couple of years ago, it meant Homer City would need to install expensive pollution controls. Instead, plant operators, joined by 14 states (not Pennsylvania), and a coalition of industry interests, fought the EPA rules in court.

Tom Schuster is campaign director for the Sierra Club in Pennsylvania, which supported the original EPA good neighbor rules in 2005. But those were struck down in the courts.  Schuster says they also support the rewritten rules in question this week.

“We really think the opponents will fight any rule that EPA comes out with because they don’t want to be held accountable for their dangerous pollution.” 

According to the EPA, eliminating air pollution would prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths.