DEP Rule Increases Air Pollution from Dirty Diesel

Contact:  Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club, 609-558-9100


DEP Rule Increases Air Pollution from Dirty Diesel


DEP held a public hearing today on proposed rules, repeals, and amendments to the Air Pollution Control rules that will increase air pollution and greenhouse gases. The proposal includes a revision to New Jersey’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) required by the Federal Clean Air Act (CAA). These changes are rolling back rules and responsibilities to allow more pollution from construction, residential, and any other generators and other industrial facilities. They are getting rid of environmental regulations with the excuse of allowing such facilities to pollute during a severe storm like Hurricane Sandy. The meeting was held today at 10:00 A.M. in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Public Hearing Room on 401 East State Street Trenton, NJ 08625.


“DEP is using disasters, potential disasters, emergencies, blackouts and any other excuse to weaken environmental protections. They are proposing new rules that allow more pollution from dirty diesel generations. This means during emergencies there can be burning of diesel and other fuels that will create major air quality problems at any location. These generators will not only release fine particulates, which impact the elderly and children with asthma, but they will further harmful ozone pollution. Diesel generators are so dirty that they emit toxins like benzene, arsenic and formaldehyde and other pollutants that are carcinogenic,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “What they are doing is allowing these generators to operate for up to 90 days during a calendar year without a permit. This is not just during emergencies such as Hurricane Sandy, it could be a blackout, brownouts or other times when the grid isn’t fully functioning where you can run these generators. The problem is they can easily make our air cleaner and our grid more resilient during these events, but they rather side with polluters over public health and the environment.”


The Department’s new rules, repeals, and amendments proposal is being based on disruptions caused by natural disasters such as Superstorm Sandy, availability of current data and new methodologies for determining hazardous air pollutant (HAP) thresholds, changes in Federal requirements regarding state programs to address emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and discussions that the Department held with unnamed representatives of various organizations. The problem is these stakeholder conversations where held in secret, without input from the public.


“A major problem with this rule change is there is no cumulative impact analysis required for generators, which means every neighborhood can have tons of diesel generators. By blanketing air permitting exemptions, they can place these generators anywhere at any time and keep polluting for many months without any restrictions. There could be dozens of polluting generators in a neighborhood impacting people’s lungs regardless of air quality. This means there could already be an Bad Air Quality Alert Day, but people can still use these generators causing all types of health risks and hospitalizations,” said Jeff Tittel. “Again, the DEP is making rule changes in private with stakeholder groups we don’t even know of. They are doing this to get cover for rolling back environmental protections that threaten people’s health and safety.”


Emergency generators can also be used during non-emergency power disruptions like brownouts or blackouts. They are also giving these generators conditional exemption of qualifying generators from the existing VOC Reasonably Available Control Technology (RACT) rules. This means that instead of requiring natural gas or prone, which would be cleaner, they can use diesel and other surface fuels like heating oil.


“While the DEP is opening the door to more pollution during severe storms, they are making it easier to keep burning fossil fuels during brownouts and blackouts. Instead of using natural gas or propane, which would be cleaner, residents can use these diesel and heating oil. They are also exempting construction engines, rental equipment, any kind of excavators or transportation equipment like debris or transportation materials, paper or hard drive shredders. This will significantly roll back air quality protection,” said Jeff Tittel. “Instead of bringing in solar for charging electronics and other home needs, building temporary windmills, or creating small hydro facilities, they are essentially throwing out all of these clean energy alternatives. They could even try to connect to natural gas supplies, which are cleaner than diesel but they are choosing not to. This is not a surprise because all along the Christie Administration has failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and hooked us on more dirty fuels that cause climate change.”


Under the Christie Administration, communities throughout New Jersey are being impacted by air pollution and new fossil fuel plants while our open spaces and environmentally sensitive lands are being targeted by pipeline after pipeline. From the fracking wells to pipelines, compressor stations, and power plants, methane leaks have significant impacts to greenhouse gas emissions. There are over 15 proposed pipelines in our state. Instead of taking action to reduce pollution and making our grid more resilient, the Christie Administration has allowed more greenhouse gas emissions and climate change from pipeline leaks and burning the gas. At the same time, in this rule they are changing reporting requirements for Hazardous Air Pollutants; defaulting to weaker standards instead of health protective NJ Standards.


“During his final months in office, Governor Christie is making one of his last attempts to rollback clean air protections. Instead of moving the state forward, the Christie Administration pushed through dirty pipelines and subsidized natural gas plants. The Administration’s Energy Master Plan has increased our reliance on natural gas by about 45 percent. Our Governor even cut our renewable energy goals from 30 percent to 22 percent by 2030, despite climate impacts getting worse and worse. His actions not only affect our lungs, but we will see even more flooding, sea level rise, and severe storms, and more pollution from these harmful generators,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Instead of implementing distributed generation, microgrids, or battery storage to make us more resilient, the Christie Administration has made us vulnerable to blackouts and brownouts during the next storm. With these rules, we won’t only see more pollution, but more climate change impacts leaving the people of New Jersey to suffer.”

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