Judge approves $1 million penalty assessed to Brunner Island plant for coal ash pollution

YORK COUNTY — The owner of the Brunner Island Steam Electric Plant will have to pay a $1 million penalty to the state and earmark $100,000 for environmental restoration projects under a consent decree approved this week by a federal judge, court documents show.

The agreement, approved by U.S. Middle District Chief Judge Christopher C. Connor, also set requirements for the disposal of several million tons of coal ash at the power plant, which is located along the Susquehanna River in York County. It also mandates strict monitoring to prevent ground- and surface-water contamination.

The agreement comes after a long negotiation between Talen Energy Corp., the plant’s owner, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, the Waterkeeper Alliance, and PennEnvironment.

Brunner Island is required to completely switch from burning coal to natural gas in 2028 under an agreement it struck last year with the Sierra Club.

The new deal calls for strict environmental monitoring while the plant disposes of an estimated 3.2 million tons of coal ash from the site, a task that must be completed by the end of 2031. A holding basin designed to prevent contamination seepage beyond the Brunner Island property must also be repaired as part of the deal.

The York Haven plant began operating in the 1960s, and has been a target of environmental groups, neighboring property owners and governments for years.

For example, in January 2016, Talen was fined $25,000 for a fish kill in the Susquehanna River.

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