UPPER TOWNSHIP – The state Department of Environmental Protection signed and approved an administrative consent order last week to allow the B.L. England Generating Station to continue to operate for up to two years beyond its May 2015 shutdown date.
“It very simply extends the air permits for the plant for another one to two years to give the operator time to consider options for repowering the facility,” Larry Ragonese, spokesman for the DEP, said Monday evening.
“As a critical resource to the electric grid, B.L. England is working with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to meet the critical needs of the State’s grid in the short term with the existing assets,” wrote Jim Maiz, vice president of Texas-based Rockland Capital LLC, the owner of the plant, in an email.
“The DEP made the right decision,” State Sen. Jeff Van Drew said in response to the news that an ACO had been signed to extend the plant’s life. “To close the plant or continue to burn coal for now, the DEP made the responsible decision.”
He said he interpreted Rockland’s statement to mean “We’re going to continue to do what we’re doing.”
“When you’re faced with the plant closing next year to getting another year or two, that’s huge,” said Steve Humanick, shop steward for IBEW Local 210 and a Cape May County resident. “Everybody at England Station is excited to receive the news and optimistic about the future knowing their jobs, families and communities will remain the same for a few more years.”
Not everyone in the community shared his delight. Georgina Shanley of Ocean City, co-found of Citizens United for Renewable Energy (CURE), said the length of the extension appeared to coincide with the amount of time required for a proposed pipeline through the Pinelands to receive approval and be constructed.
“Basically, it’s business as usual,” she said in response to the ACO. “Neither the DEP nor our elected officials give a damn about the environment or the residents. If they did, they wouldn’t keep running the health risks to the people or to the ecosystem. It’s inhuman.”
The aging plant employs approximately 50 union employees and dozens of contractors and suppliers.