Tighter Regulation Sought for Trash-Burning Power Plants


There are six trash-burning power plants in eastern Pennsylvania, “and Philly sends trash to all of them,” the Clean Air Council’s Russell Zerbo wrote in Grid. On October 4, a group of 274 environmental organizations signed a letter to the White House Council on Environmental Quality asking the advisory group to direct the EPA to tighten regulations on the power plants.

Most of the power plants are older, and they tend to be heavy polluters. Most trash-burning power plants rank among the top three industrial polluters in their respective counties, according to EPA emissions data. Many are allowed to operate without pollution control devices, they are infrequently monitored by regulators, and they are often — as in the case of Covanta’s incinerator in Chester — located in low-resource communities of color.

The letter urges the feds to bring all the plants up to modern emissions standards, to stop promoting burning trash for energy over putting waste in landfills (which results in less emissions), and to close loopholes such as one that allows medical waste to be burned in trash-burning power plants with less stringent oversight than is required for medical waste incinerators.

The 274 organizations include several active in the Philadelphia area, including the Clean Air Council, PennEnvironment, and Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living.

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