FirstEnergy Corporation's Bruce Mansfield plant in Shippingport, Beaver County was fined $25,000 for releasing soot that ended up covering more than two dozen properties this past June. The June incident is the second time within twelve months that FirstEnergy's plant has fined by the state's Department of Environmental Protection. The fine is the maximum allowed by our state's Air Pollution Control Act.
There are two major things wrong here. First, this plant was ranked as the 17th worst polluting plant in the United States, and it is one of the major reasons we here in Southwestern PA rank as one of worst MSAs for air particulate pollution. So why is this plant allowed to stay operational? People who work at the plant and the local small businesses who support their families obviously want the plant to stay open - even though they may not realize the detrimental effects their employer has on the health of their families. But why can't we start shutting down this dirty plants and begin putting those displaced employees to work for companies producing green energy?
The second major thing I find wrong with this incident is the lame penalty. The maximum penalty for this soot pollution offense is only $25,000 - this is not enough! The cost of reducing or eliminating this soot pollution for First Energy is probably in the millions of dollars. Since they do not fear getting shut down and they are fined a tiny amount - there is no incentive to clean up their act. We need to start replacing the dirty power and dirty jobs with green power and green jobs!
According to the Air Pollution Control Act website, the Act is in place in order to:
Is it possible that this Act needs to be revamped in order to levy heavier fines on polluters such as FirstEnergy? It is time for our state congressman to step up and do something about these irresponsibile actions. It's time to shut down these dirty plants - or at least give them a deadline to get their acts together. I saw set a hard deadline and shut down the polluters who do not meet the minimum pollution control requirements. The state could create a green jobs training and placement program for the displaced workers.
To provide for the better protection of the health, general welfare and property of the people of the Commonwealth by the control, abatement, reduction and prevention of the pollution of the air by smokes, dusts, fumes, gases, odors, mists, vapors, pollens and similar matter, or any combination thereof; imposing certain powers and duties on the Department of Environmental Resources, the Environmental Quality Board and the Environmental Hearing Board; establishing procedures for the protection of health and public safety during emergency conditions; creating a stationary air contamination source permit system; providing additional remedies for abating air pollution; reserving powers to local political subdivisions, and defining the relationship between this act and the ordinances, resolutions and regulations of counties, cities, boroughs, towns and townships; imposing penalties for violation of this act; and providing for the power to enjoin violations of this act; and conferring upon persons aggrieved certain rights and remedies. (Title amended Oct. 26, 1972, P.L.989, No.245)
To be fair to FirstEnergy, they reported that the plant's emissions scrubbing equipment had a malfunction, which caused the soot to be released into the air and onto the houses. If this is the case and they truly are trying to clean up their act - we'll see where the Shippingport plant stands when next year's dirty plants rankings are released.
(Note - as I sit here typing this post a commercial just aired claiming that coal is "securing our future" and that we have over two Saudi Arabia's of coal here in the US)