Advocacy groups call on Jacksonville leaders to create stronger protections against pollution

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Local groups called on the Biden Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday morning to create stronger safeguards against Mercury pollution.

In a press conference held in Downtown Jacksonville, representatives from the Sierra Club of Northeast Florida, Moms Clean Air, Solar United Neighbors, and Florida Rising voiced their concerns and desires for the future.

“Some of what we’ll be asking for today is presidential action,” Chair of the Sierra Club of Northeast Florida, Logan Cross, said. “Using presidential authority to pass some rules and regulations that will help mitigate the harmful pollutants and a lot of people were exposed to.”

The call to action was not limited to the federal level.

Their second request is for JEA to decommission the Northside Generating Station before 2030 to replace it with “cleaner forms of energy.”

The plant uses natural gas, fuel oil, coal, and petroleum coke to generate power.

This request comes as JEA is working on its Integrated Resource Plan.

“Now’s the time to make sure clean energy sources, particularly rooftop solar, are included in that plan,” Angela Demonbreun, Chief Operating Officer of Solar United Neighbors, said.

JEA provided the following statement to Action News Jax:

“JEA is embracing a brighter energy future. From solar and wind power to biomass and methane gas, JEA is diversifying our electric generation to include a variety of renewable energy sources. JEA has reduced its carbon emissions by 53 percent since 2007 with the closing of St. Johns River Power Park in 2018 and the unit we co-owned at Plant Scherer in January 2022,” part of the statement reads.

Yaritza Perez with Moms Clean Air Force explained the role Mercury can play in everyday lives.

“Children are especially vulnerable to the health effects of Mercury, and pregnant women can pass mercury through their placenta into the brains of developing babies,” Perez said. “Mercury is also linked to heart disease. Florida is home to many families with young children, and we have so many elderly and retirees here too.”

Perez said she hopes to see a reduction in pollution for families in the short term and long term.

“By setting the strongest possible standards to slash mercury, arsenic, and other toxics in our air -- we’ll save lives,” Perez said.

JEA said they look forward to open and transparent conversations with the Sierra Club and other Northeast Florida stakeholders through the end of the year.

“JEA’s Northside Generating Station is a critical asset for maintaining electric system reliability, a service it provides while consistently remaining in full compliance with all applicable national and state air quality regulations and standards. The plant uses natural gas, fuel oil, coal, and petroleum coke in three baseload generating units. Units 1 & 2 have some of the lowest emissions of any generating units in the country using similar fuels. Northside’s Unit 3 operates almost exclusively on natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel, switching to oil only as a reliability backup during times of natural gas system curtailments, disruptions, or price spikes. In addition, Northside has often been one of the most economical supply options,” JEA’s statement reads.

To read more about JEA’s IRP visit https://www.jea.com/irp.

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