Environment
9:09 pm
Wed January 11, 2012

Local Power Plant May Undergo Clean Changes

The Homer City power plant in Indiana County might lose its reputation for being one of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants in America with a proposed installation of pollution controls.

Doug McFarlan, Vice President of Public Affairs for Edison Mission Energy (EME), which owns and operates the plant, unveiled the plan at a four-hour open house in Homer City.

McFarlan said that EME hopes to begin construction by late spring if it receives permits from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the necessary financing is arranged.

New stack "scrubbers" will be installed, reducing sulfur dioxide and mercury output by 90 percent and fine particulates by 60 percent, the maximum possible with current technology. The estimated cost of the project will be $600-700 million dollars. McFarlan said that the proposal is currently in front of potential lenders.

"There's no question that the use of coal to generate electricity has become very challenged in the last few years," McFarlan acknowledged. "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency … has developed very strict new rules on emissions for the long term, and our company does not have an issue with that."

The plant was sued by the EPA and state DEP last year, but the suit was later dismissed by a federal judge in Pittsburgh. McFarlan said that EME understands the need for regulations, but wants rules that are set by experts that consider current technology limits and what improvements can be made in specific timeframes.

"It's a critical project to ensure that we continue to use coal in this part of the country and to help maintain a reliable, affordable supply of energy while also, at the same time, protecting the environment, and protecting a lot of good paying jobs in that community, also," McFarlan said.

The project is the largest investment for pollution reduction that the company has made at Homer City. The facility generates enough power for about 2 million households.