Backup diesel generators "putting public health at risk"
HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- PennFuture testified today before the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, urging policymakers to pass legislation aimed at reducing toxic diesel exhaust from backup generators.
"PennFuture strongly supports clean demand response resources, but we object to allowing dirty diesel generators to participate in these programs without having to install pollution controls," said Christina Simeone, director of the PennFuture Energy Center. "These diesel engines will operate on some of the worst air quality days of the year, releasing toxic pollution, contributing to smog formation, and putting public health at risk."
Earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created a loophole allowing dirty diesel engines to participate in lucrative demand response programs, which aim to preserve electric grid stability and lower wholesale electricity prices. Pa. House Bill 1699, sponsored by Rep. Chris Ross (R-Chester), would require engines participating in demand response programs to install pollution controls and provide the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with important information about the location and operations of these units.
On average, an uncontrolled diesel engine releases greater than two times more fine particulate matter and three times more oxides of nitrogen than the average U.S. coal-fired power plant. Diesel exhaust was also determined to be a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Cleaner demand response resources typically involve reducing power consumption when electricity demand is high, such as turning off lights, reducing energy-intensive operations, or increasing temperatures on air conditioning or refrigeration units.
"Pennsylvania needs to close EPA's dirty diesel loophole in order to protect public health on the worst air quality days of the year and preserve opportunities for cleaner demand response resources," continued Simeone.
Currently, DEP does not know the location of these dirty diesel units or how often they operate. However, information from PJM, the regional electricity grid, indicates that 21 percent of the regional demand response market is supplied by backup generators and 88 percent of these generators are fueled by diesel.
PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization founded in 1998 with offices in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Wilkes-Barre. PennFuture's activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state, and federal courts; advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level; public education; and assisting citizens in public advocacy.
The Philadelphia Inquirer called PennFuture the "state's leading environmental advocacy organization;" the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette named the organization "one of the 10 most influential groups on the issue of natural gas drilling;" and StateImpact Pennsylvania, an online collaboration of NPR stations across the state, called PennFuture "the commonwealth's main environmental advocate."
Contact: Elaine Labalme