By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Environmental groups want Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection to reconsider its draft water pollution permit for the Brunner Island coal-fired power plant.

The latest draft permit, released Friday, would delay the plant’s deadline to comply with discharge limits on a variety of harmful pollutants for another 4 to 6 years.

The pollutants include nitrates, selenium, arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead.

According to Patrick Grenter, senior campaign representative for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed at the Sierra Club, this is the third draft update since the plant’s last pollution permit expired in 2011.

“What this means is that Brunner is going to continue to cause significant impacts in the Susquehanna River because of their dirty pollution, and they’re continuing to get a free ride from the DEP,” he states.

The draft permit gives Brunner Island the maximum allowable time to meet federal guidelines for water pollution from coal plants.

But Grenter points out that the Brunner Island plant is set up to burn either coal or natural gas, so it could eliminate the coal pollution by making adjustments to the way the plant is operated.

“This isn’t like we’re asking this plant to undergo a massive transformation,” he points out. “We’re not asking anything unreasonable, we’re not asking them to do anything that they cannot voluntarily do today.”

Grenter says the current federal standards, set in 2015, were designed to give coal-fired plants that aren’t set up to end their water pollution time to come into compliance.

The permit is not yet final, so Grenter says there’s still time for the public to weigh in, and the Sierra Club will be requesting that the DEP hold a public hearing.

“We’re hoping that DEP, through this draft period where they will be accepting public comments on this draft permit, will end up making the right decision,” he states.