Cheswick Power Plant

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The Cheswick Power Station, located in Springdale, PA, began commercial operation in 1970, and is owned by GenOn Energy, Inc. (formerly RRI Energy, Inc.). It is a coal-fired power plant producing (on average) 580 MW (net) per hour of power and is the only coal-fired power plant located in Allegheny County coming under the air quality regulations of the Allegheny County Health Department.

The power plant recently installed a scrubber to drastically reduce its emissions of acid-rain forming sulfur dioxide. While we were pleased to see this beneficial project moving forward, we had great concerns about RRI’s request to increase their lead emissions by four times higher than the plant’s current emissions. Community organizing and negotiations by GASP prevented RRI from receiving this amendment to their permit. GASP’s agreement with RRI Energy should ensure lead emissions from the Cheswick Station will not increase. This agreement could not have happened without the massive effort of residents living near the power plant and the students at Springdale High School. Both groups led successful petition drives, and through their advocacy kept the issue in the public eye. For more information the specifics of the agreement, check out the RRI update article in the Summer 2010 Hotline.

Until 2004, the power plant had been using the original precipitator installed in 1970. Through a settlement agreement with GASP, the power plant (then owned by Orion Power Midwest, L.P.) agreed to follow a detailed schedule of repair and improvement on the Cheswick electrostatic precipitator to be completed no later than three years from the date of the agreement. Learn more about the agreement aimed at reducing high opacity readings recorded at the Cheswick Power Station here.

Most recently, the plant’s new scrubber experienced severe corrosion soon after operation began and the scrubber was taken offline. GASP worked with GenOn and concerned community members about this issue and the severe noise that some citizens are experiencing. GASP, along with PennFuture, filed a petition on January 28, 2011, with EPA, asking EPA to reject the Title V Operating Permit of this plant until certain problems with the permit are corrected. Problems include the lack of a limit on mercury emissions, and the lack of all monitoring requirements necessary to ensure that the facility’s pollution control devices are functioning effectively. (Read our full petition here, or our summary letter here.) GenOn submitted a revised application in December 2011, and we await further developments.