EPA Coal Plant Settlements
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- 1 Background
- 2 EPA Coal Plant Settlements
- 2.1 TVA to phase out 18 coal units, install pollution controls
- 2.2 Dean Mitchell station to close, pollution controls at three other plants
- 2.3 Gallagher Generating Station
- 2.4 Westar Clean Air Act Settlement
- 2.5 Tampa Electric Company (TECO) Clean Air Act Settlement
- 2.6 PSEG Fossil L.L.C. Civil Judicial Settlement
- 2.7 Alcoa, Inc. Clean Air Act Settlement
- 2.8 Virginia Electric and Power Company (VEPCO) Clean Air Act Settlement
- 2.9 Wisconsin Electric Power Company (WEPCO) Clean Air Act Civil Settlement
- 2.10 Southern Indiana Gas and Electric Company (SIGECO) F.B. Culley Plant Clean Air Act Settlement
- 2.11 Illinois Power Company and Dynegy Midwest Generation
- 2.12 Alabama Power Company Clean Air Settlement
- 2.13 East Kentucky Power Cooperative Settlement
- 2.14 Kentucky Utilities Company Clean Air Act Settlement
- 2.15 Salt River Project Agriculture Improvement and Power District Clean Air Act Settlement
- 2.16 American Electric Power Service Corporation Settlement
- 2.17 Ohio Edison Company, W.H. Sammis Power Station, Clean Air Act Settlement
- 2.18 Minnkota Power Cooperative and Square Butte Electric Cooperative
- 2.19 South Carolina Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper)
- 2.20 Mirant Clean Air Settlement
- 3 Resources
In November of 1999, the United States Department of Justice on behalf of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) charged seven utilities with violation of the New Source Review requirements of the Clean Air Act. The EPA asserted that these utilities had made major modifications to their plants without installing proper equipment required to control for acid rain, smog and soot. The EPA contends that these seven lawsuits were a major step taken by the government to halt pollution that is illegally released from coal-fired power plants.
The EPA also stated that for years these plants operated without proper emissions-control technology. The enforcement initiative targeted 17 coal-fired power plants in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
In addition the EPA issued Notices of Violations to these companies, as well as an administrative order against the Tennessee Valley Authority. The EPA notes that the "enforcement effort under the Clean Air Act to date, the complaints, Notices of Violation and administrative order cover 32 plants located in 10 states", effecting a total of 17 different utility companies.
The Obama administration has also begun to enforce NSR requirements of the Clean Air Act.
EPA Coal Plant Settlements
TVA to phase out 18 coal units, install pollution controls
On April 14, 2011, North Carolina settled a 5-year-old lawsuit - North Carolina v. TVA - with the TVA over emissions from its coal-fired plants. The deal was part of a larger settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over TVA violations of the clean air act at 11 of its coal-fired plants in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee.
As part of the North Carolina agreement, TVA agreed to phase out 18 units of its coal plants, adding up to 2,700 MW, and to install modern pollution controls on three dozen additional units. The phase out includes two units at the John Sevier Fossil Plant, all 10 units at the Johnsonville Fossil Plant, both in Tennessee, and six units at the Widows Creek Fossil Plant in north Alabama.
As part of the EPA agreement, TVA will invest an estimated $3 to $5 billion on pollution controls, invest $350 million on clean energy projects, and pay a civil penalty of $10 million.
Dean Mitchell station to close, pollution controls at three other plants
On January 13, 2011, the Obama administration brokered a settlement in which Northern Indiana Public Service Co. will permanently shut down an idled coal-fired power plant in Gary, Indana - the Dean Mitchell Generating Station - and spend $600 million to install and improve pollution controls at its three other aging electric generators - Schahfer Generating Station in Wheatfield, Bailly Generating Station in Chesterton, and the Michigan City Generating Station. The improvements will reduce smog- and soot-forming sulfur oxide by 46,000 tons a year and curb lung-damaging nitrogen oxide by 18,000 tons annually, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. NIPSCO faced legal troubles for upgrading the power plants to keep them operating while failing to install modern pollution controls required under the Clean Air Act's New Source Review provisions. The plants avoided the toughest provisions of the law for decades, in part because regulators assumed during the 1970s that they wouldn’t be running much longer.
The settlement is the 17th negotiated by the EPA and the Justice Department since Obama took office, as part of a national campaign to reduce air pollution from the oldest existing coal plants, some of which date back to the 1940s. Most of the cases have involved utilities in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. NIPSCO also will pay a $3.5 million fine and spend another $9.5 million on environmental projects, including soot filters for old diesel engines, cleaner woodstoves and restoration of land next to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Gallagher Generating Station
On December 22, 2009, the EPA announced the agency had reached a settlement with Duke Energy for New Source Review (NSR) violations of the Clean Air Act at Duke’s Gallagher Generating Station in Indiana. A jury had found Duke liable for NSR violations at the plant, and the settlement obviated the need for a remedy trial, which had been scheduled for early 2010.
The settlement requires Duke Energy to repower Units 1 and 3 at Gallagher with natural gas or shut them down, and to install scrubbers at Units 2 and 4, reducing sulfur dioxide emissions 86 percent when compared to 2008 emissions. Duke will also pay a $1.75 million penalty and spend $6.25 million on various environmental mitigation projects.
Westar Clean Air Act Settlement
On February 4, 2009, the U.S. Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency filed a clean air lawsuit against Westar, claiming the company updated a coal plant in Kansas without installing modern pollution controls. It was the first such suit under the Obama administration. The suit alleged that Westar's 1,857 MW Jeffrey Energy Center has violated the Clean Air Act for over a decade.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. district court in Kansas City and cited Westar for violating the New Source Review (NSR) portion of the Clean Air Act. A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to estimate how much Westar would face in fines. The largest fine in a NSR lawsuit was a $1.4 billion settlement with American Electric Power.
In response to the suit, Westar issued a statement saying:
We have known for more than six years, and have even publicly disclosed, that the Department of Justice at some point might file a lawsuit.
We are good environmental stewards, and that is why over the last several years, we have invested nearly $500 million to remove up to 90 percent of the very emissions that the EPA has targeted with its complaint. We also expect to invest more than $1 billion in additional equipment over the next five years. A graphic detailing our target emissions reductions appears with this statement.
In its 2008 annual report Westar stated "A decision in favor of the DOJ and the EPA, or a settlement prior to such a decision, if reached, could require us to update or install emissions controls at Jeffrey Energy Center. Additionally, we might be required to update or install emissions controls at our other coal-fired plants, pay fines or penalties or take other remedial action. Our ultimate costs to resolve the NSR Investigation and the related DOJ lawsuit could be material. We believe that costs related to updating or installing emissions controls would qualify for recovery in the prices we are allowed to charge our customers. If, however, a penalty is assessed against us, the penalty could be material and may not be recovered in rates. We are not able to estimate the possible loss or range of loss at this time."
On September 29, 2009, the Sierra Club announced it was planning to file a request in federal court to intervene in the lawsuit. Attorney Bob Eye said the group wanted to provide expertise and support in backing the claims made against Westar. He said the Sierra Club did not plan to raise new issues in the case.
On January 25, 2010, Westar Energy agreed to spend $500 million to reduce sulfur dioxide pollution at its Jeffrey Energy Center in Kansas by installing scrubbers by the end of 2014. The company said it had opted to settle rather than to litigate. The installation of scrubbers will reduce combined emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by 78,600 tons each year. That figure is 85 percent lower than their 2007 emissions. Additionally, Westar will give up surplus sulfur dioxide allowance. The company will also required to control for lower particular matter emissions. The EPA also reported that Westar will spend $6 million to mitigate the detrimental effects of the accused violations, including:
- Retrofitting diesel engines on vehicles owned by or operated for public entities in Kansas with emission control equipment.
- Installing new wind turbines that will result in the reduction of criteria pollutants and greenhouse gases, and provide electricity for the benefit of a school or nonprofit.
- Installing advanced truck stop electrification to reduce harmful emissions from idling trucks.
- Installing plug-in hybrid infrastructure to facilitate the use of plug-in hybrid vehicles.
- Converting vehicles in Westar’s fleet to reduce pollution by retrofitting diesel vehicles with emission controls and purchasing hybrid vehicle.
Tampa Electric Company (TECO) Clean Air Act Settlement
On February 29, 2000 the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice announced an enforcement settlement with Tampa Electric Company for allegedly violating New Source Review of the Clean Air Act. The agreement required the utility to reduce harmful air pollution from its coal-fired power plants.
The government charged that Tampa Electric Company in 1999 and six other utilities for violating the law at their coal-fired power plants. The company paid $3.5 million in a civil suit. Under the agreement, the company was required to install permanent emissions-control equipment and implement a series of interim pollution-reduction measures to reduce emissions while the permanent controls are designed and installed. The settlement also required the company to spend between $10 and $11 million on environmentally beneficial projects in the region.
"The Tampa Electric settlement is the first reached under EPA's national enforcement action against coal-fired power plants for violations of the Clean Air Act," said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. "The Tampa Electric settlement represents a landmark in the Clinton-Gore administration's efforts to provide the people of Florida with cleaner, healthier air. It ensures the greatest possible protection of public health from air pollution for Floridians and their environment. We are hopeful that other utilities will follow Tampa Electric example, and help bring similar clean-air benefits to many other areas in this country."
PSEG Fossil L.L.C. Civil Judicial Settlement
On November 30, 2006 the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice along with the State of New Jersey announced a settlement with Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) related to the company's failure to comply with a 2002 consent decree that required the utility to install pollution control devices at two of its coal-fired power plants.
PSEG was required to pay a civil penalty of $6 million – $4.25 million to the federal government and $1.75 million to New Jersey. Under settlement agreements PSEG was also required to spend $3.25 million on environmental mitigation projects.
The amended agreement, signed by the United States and the State of New Jersey, requires the electric utility to accelerate the installation of air pollution control equipment at its Mercer Generating Station, to install additional control equipment that was not previously required and to carry out a host of interim pollution control measures in exchange for delaying the installation of pollution controls required under the original timeline at PSEG's Hudson Generating Station.
The EPA notes that "Under the 2002 consent decree, PSEG was required to install pollution control equipment at the Mercer and Hudson plants to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM), and take steps to reduce mercury and carbon dioxide emissions. The utility did install pollution control equipment for nitrogen oxides known as selective catalytic reduction (SCR) at its Mercer plant. SCR is capable of reducing nitrogen oxides by approximately 90%. However, PSEG has failed to take the necessary steps to install required pollution control equipment at the Hudson facility as required by the original settlement."
The settlement required PSEG to install an acid gas scrubber for removing sulfur dioxide from (SO2) exhaust gases produced by the power plant – at one of the Mercer plants as well as one at an additional Mercer plant by 2010. In addition, PSEG agreed to install baghouses or dust collection chambers at its Mercer plant.
PSEG was also required to meet new NOx emissions limit at the Mercer plant starting January 1, 2007. In addition, the company was required to install baghouses or dust collection chambers at its Mercer plant to cut pollution more than a less effective technology it was previously using. Lastly, PSEG is required to use carbon injection systems, not previously required, to reduce mercury emissions from the Mercer facility.
The EPA also stated that these measures include year-round operation of the existing NOx control equipment "utilizing selective non-catalytic reduction to reduce NOx, use of ultra-low sulfur coal, compliance with annual emission caps for NOx and SO2, and operation of an electrostatic precipitator and a fly ash conditioning system to control PM. Installation of permanent controls will be delayed until December 31, 2010, unless PSEG chooses to shut down the unit altogether in 2008."
Alcoa, Inc. Clean Air Act Settlement
On April 9, 2003 the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. EPA announced a settlement agreement with Alcoa Inc. for an estimated $330 million to install a new coal-fired power plant at its aluminum production facility in Rockdale, Texas with upgraded pollution controls to help eliminate sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.
The settlement resolved allegations filed in federal court by the EPA and its co-plaintiffs, Neighbors for Neighbors, Inc., Environmental Defense, and Public Citizen that the company had unlawfully operated the Sandow Station since it overhauled the Rockdale power plant without installing necessary pollution controls and without first obtaining proper permits required by the New Source Review program of the Clean Air Act.
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's executive director Margaret Hoffman said, “As a result of this joint investigation and cooperative effort between state and federal officials, Texans will enjoy cleaner air. That's a victory for everyone.”
The EPA notes that Alcoa's coal-fired plant, located in northeast of Austin, was the single largest non-utility source of SO2 and NOx emissions in the country. The plant generates electricity for two aluminum smelters and a strip-mining operation that supplies lignite coal for the power plant. The aluminum at the plant is used for truck wheels, cans, die-casts, machinery, components for telecommunication devices and appliances.
Alcoa also paid a $1.5 million civil suit and $2.5 million on two additional environmental projects in an attempt to offset past emissions.
Virginia Electric and Power Company (VEPCO) Clean Air Act Settlement
On April 21, 2003 the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. EPA announced that Virginia Electric Power Company (VEPCO), now known as Dominion, agreed to a $1.2 billion settlement for charges that the company had violated New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act. At the time it was the largest settlement with any utility company for alleged Clean Air Act violations. By 2013 the company is expected to install equipment to control pollution that causes smog, acid rain and soot by eliminating 237,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) from their plants' discharge in Virginia and West Virginia.
“Today’s settlement reflects the combined efforts of all parties to reach one common goal – cleaner air,” said Tom Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “These massive reductions in pollution will benefit not only the citizens of Virginia and West Virginia, but also the states in the Northeast to which windblown emissions of these pollutants are transported.”
VEPCO also agreed to pay a $5.3 million a civil penalty and spend at least $13.9 million more for environmental projects in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, West Virginia, all of which participated in the case. Dominion will be installing new pollution control equipment and upgrading existing controls on several units in its system.
Wisconsin Electric Power Company (WEPCO) Clean Air Act Civil Settlement
On April 29, 2003 the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. EPA announced a $600 million Clean Air Act settlement with Wisconsin Electric Power Company (WEPCO). The settlement resolves alleged claims that the company violated New Source Review (NSR) provisions of the Clean Air Act.
“Today’s settlement is another example of the Justice Department’s strong commitment to cleaning up our nation’s air,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas L. Sansonetti. “Soon the residents of Wisconsin and Michigan will benefit from the drastic reductions in pollutants emitted from these facilities.”
The EPA estimates that WEPCO will spend up to $600 million to install pollution control equipment to reduce 72,300 tons per year of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and 32,600 tons per year of nitrogen oxide (NOx) every year. The settlement covers five Wisconsin Electric plants, four in Wisconsin and one in Michigan, consisting of a total of 23 electrical generating units.
Southern Indiana Gas and Electric Company (SIGECO) F.B. Culley Plant Clean Air Act Settlement
On June 6, 2006 the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. EPA announced a Clean Air Act settlement with Southern Indiana Gas and Electric (SIGECO). The settlement resolves the EPA's claim that SIGECO violated New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act at its F. B. Culley Generating Station. The EPA noted that the settlement will eliminate approximately 10,500 tons of harmful air pollutants each year from the company's three coal-fired power plants at the Culley Station.
The EPA estimates that SIGECO will spend $30 million to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2)emissions. The company was also fined a $600,000 civil penalty.
"We are happy that SIGECO finally chose to resolve the United States’ claims through a consent agreement rather than battling us in court," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas L. Sansonetti. "This excellent settlement shows how the Department’s aggressive enforcement can help bring industry into compliance with our environmental laws, ultimately making for cleaner air for all citizens to enjoy. I hope defendants in our other cases take the hint that settling with the United States is the right thing to do.”
Illinois Power Company and Dynegy Midwest Generation
On March 7, 2005 the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. EPA along with the State of Illinois announced a settlement between Illinois Power Company and its sucesscor, Dynegy, addressing alleged violations of New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act at company's Baldwin Energy Station. The EPA noted that sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions at the plant will decrease by 54,000 tons each year through the installation of approximately $500 million worth of new pollution control equipment. In addition to the Baldwin Generating Station, the Havana Power Station, Hennepin Power Station and Vermilion Power Station, Wood River Station were involved in the settlement.
The EPA stated that this "settlement requires installation of four new flue gas desulfurization devices (scrubbers) to control SO2; four new baghouses to control particulate matter (soot); and operation of existing control equipment, including three selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems, year-round to control NOx. The entire five-plant system will be subject to annual emission caps to assure that significant system-wide reductions for both SO2 and NOx are achieved."
Alabama Power Company Clean Air Settlement
On April 25, 2006 the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. EPA announced a partial settlement alleging that the Alabama Power Company, a subsidiary of the Southern Company had allegedly violated New Source Review (NSR) provisions of the Clean Air Act at its Miller Steam Plant, a coal-fired power plant.
The EPA announced that its decree will reduce emissions of harmful sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from the plant, with costs that will reach $200 million.
"We are pleased that Alabama Power has committed to measures that will reduce the pollution from their plants and contribute to overall improved air quality, and this settlement secures for the citizens of Alabama and downwind states a dramatic and permanent reduction of more than 27,000 tons per year of harmful air pollutants from the James H. Miller, Jr. Plant," said Granta Y, Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "EPA will continue to enforce our nation's environmental laws and bring us closer to ensuring clean air compliance across our nation."
By May 1, 2008, the Miller plant will commence year round operation at both it units in order to reduce emissions. The EPA also noted that in order to "further reduce SO2 emissions into the atmosphere, Alabama Power will purchase and retire $4.9 million worth of SO2 allowances (each allowance is equal to one ton of SO2) under the acid rain trading program of the Clean Air Act, which will reduce SO2 emissions nationwide by an estimated 6,600 tons."
This partial settlement resolves the claim brought to Alabama Power that they allegedly violated NSR requirements by not completing construction of two units at the Miller plant within the time frame required to qualify as "existing" rather and "new" air pollution sources.
East Kentucky Power Cooperative Settlement
On July 2, 2007 the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that East Kentucky Power Cooperative, a coal-fired electric power plant, will spend about $650 million in pollution upgrades and another $750,000 penalty in a civil suit for violations of the New Source Review requirements of the Clean Air Act at its Spurlock Power Station, Cooper Power Station and Dale Power Station.
“Today’s settlement is another example of the Justice Department’s continued commitment to aggressively enforcing the Clean Air Act,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The emissions reductions from this settlement are substantial, and we are pleased that East Kentucky finally agreed to resolve this litigation on acceptable terms and bring its facilities into compliance with important provisions of the Clean Air Act.”
The EPA and DOJ in 2004 filed a lawsuit against the utility for "illegally modifying and increasing air pollution at two of its coal-fired power plants."
The settlement states that the utility will install pollution control equipment to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) by more than 60,000 tons per year.
Kentucky Utilities Company Clean Air Act Settlement
On February 3, 2009 the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. EPA announced that Kentucky Utilities Company (KU) agreed to pay a $1.4 million civil penalty and spend approximately $135 million on pollution controls. The settlement is a result of alleged New Source Review requirements of the Clean Air Act violations.
In March 2007, the EPA filed a complaint that KU modified its largest coal-fired generating unit at their E.W. Brown Generating Station without installing required pollution controls. The EPA noted that the "unit has been operating since 1971, and the modifications made in 1997 allowed the unit to increase the amount of coal it burned and increase the amount and rate of emissions for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. The government discovered the violations through an information request submitted to KU."
In the settlement KU agreed to install new pollution control equipment on the E.W. Brown Generating Station that will effectively reduce combined emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) by more than 31,000 tons per year. Particulate matter emissions will also be reduced through new pollution controls by approximately 1,000 tons per year. An additional $3 million will be spent on projects to mitigate passed alleged emissions violations.
KU will be installing three scrubbers to reduce SO2 pollution, a contributor to acid rain, at three of its coal-fired units by 2020.
Salt River Project Agriculture Improvement and Power District Clean Air Act Settlement
On August, 12, 2008 the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. EPA announced that the owner of the Salt River Project in St. Johns, Arizona agreed to install pollution controls at the facility at an estimated cost of $400 million to reduce harmful pollutants. In addition the owner also paid a $950,000 civil penalty. The settlement resolved allegations that the Salt River Project violated New Source Review requirements of the Clean Air Act.
“This settlement marks a significant step in controlling harmful nitrogen oxide emissions in the Western United States,” said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA’s enforcement and compliance assurance program. “The installation of state-of-the-art technology sets an important benchmark for the control of this harmful pollutant. EPA is committed to ensuring coal-fired power plants comply with the Clean Air Act.”
The settlement mandates that the owner install and operate new pollution control equipment on both generating units at its Coronado Generating Station. These controls will reduce combined emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) by approximately 21,000 tons annually.
SRP will install flue gas desulfurization devices (scrubbers) to control SO2 at both units and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) controls to limit NOx at one of the units. The settlement was the first ever to secure an SCR retrofit of an existing coal-fired electric generating unit in the Western United States.
American Electric Power Service Corporation Settlement
On October 9, 2007 the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. EPA announced that American Electric Power (AEP) agreed to pay a $15 million fine and spend $60 million on projects to mitigate the adverse effects of its past emissions. Of that $60 million, the EPA announced that it would be split 60%/40% between the United States and the various settling states. The company agreed to cut 813,000 tons of air pollutants each year at an cost of more than $4.6 billion.
It was the largest environmental enforcement settlement in U.S. history. AEP will install pollution control equipment to reduce and capture sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx). The settlement resolved a lawsuit filed against AEP in 1999 for violating the New Source Review of the Clean Air Act. A coalition of eight states and 13 citizen and environmental groups joined the U.S. government in the settlement. A total of 16 plants located in five states were impacted.
“The AEP settlement will have an unprecedented impact on air quality in the eastern United States,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement is a major victory for the environment and public health, and it demonstrates our continued commitment to vigorous enforcement of the Clean Air Act.”
American Electric installed three "scrubbers" at its largest power-generating unit at its John Amos Plant in West Virginia. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $1.04 billion.
"[The scrubbers are] going to provide a different look to the skyline. The plume will look different," said Phil Moye, spokesman for American Electric Power subsidiary Appalachian Power. "I describe it as a rolling, billowy, cloud-like plume. It's white. It will come from the new stack that was constructed as a part of the project."
Ohio Edison Company, W.H. Sammis Power Station, Clean Air Act Settlement
On August 12, 2009 Ohio Edision Company, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., agreed to a consent decree issues by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. EPA to repower two of the R.E. Burger's coal-fired power plant units using primarily biomass fuels (trees, grasses, agricultural crops and wood products). The decree modifies a 2005 consent decree of a similar nature, requiring Ohio Edison to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from its coal-fired power plants. The EPA estimates that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the plant, along with SO2 and NOx will decrease by approximately 1.3 million tons per year.
FirstEnergy's, as part of a $1.5 billion project to reduce toxic air pollutants, will be installing a flue gas desulfurization devices (scrubbers) on all seven of the company's coal-fired units in Ohio by 2011. The consent decree resolved a lawsuit filed in 1999 under the New Source Review provision of the Clean Air Act.
The company's Burger Plant will be the largest coal-fired electric utility in the country to change to a majority biomass fuel plant. Sierra Club and other environmental groups, while commending FirstEnergy for its willingness to abandon coal as the primary energy source, are critical of biomass as a sustainable alternative for the Burger plant because of its sheer size. The consent decree resolved a lawsuit filed in 1999 under the New Source Review provision of the Clean Air Act.
Minnkota Power Cooperative and Square Butte Electric Cooperative
On April 24, 2006 the Department of Justice and the U.S. EPA announced a settlement of a case alleging violations of the New Source Review (NSR) provisions of the Clean Air Act requiring Minnkota Power Cooperative and Square Butte Electric Cooperative (both member-owned rural utilities) to reduce emissions of two harmful pollutants by more than 33,000 tons annually.
The plants will be reducing emissions of about 23,600 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and 9,400 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx) per year from the coal-fired Milton R. Young Station in North Dakota. This was the first NSR settlement with a power plant in the Western U.S. The settlement and the pollution control upgrades are estimated to cost the company $100 million. In 2005, the Milton R. Young Station was the second largest emitter of NOx pollution in the entire country. The settlement states that the utilities will install a new SO2 pollution flue gas desulfurization device (scrubber) to reduce SO2 emissions by at least 90 percent as well as an upgrade on an existing scrubber. Additionally, NOx reduction systems will be installed, with work beginning in 2007 and ending in 2011.
Both utilities will also fund $5 million in renewable energy projects such as wind power in North Dakota and Minnesota.
South Carolina Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper)
On March 16, 2002 the U.S. EPA, the Department of Justice and the State of South Carolina announced a New Source Review requirements settlment with the South Carolina Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper) to address alleged Clean Air Act violations at several of its coal-fired power plants in the state.
Under the settlement agreement Santee Cooper will spend approximately $400 million until 2012 to install pollution control devices to decrease emissions at its Winyah Generating Station, Cross Generating Station, Jefferies Generating Station and Grainger Generating Station. In April of 2002 the U.S. Public Research Interest Group released a study stating that Santee's Winyah plant had one of the nation's most significant increases in pollution between 1995 and 2000.
The EPA estimates that 70,000 tons of SO2 (contributor to acid rain and cardiovascular disease) and NOx (contributor to ground-level ozone, acid rain and global warming) emissions will be reduced annually from Santee Cooper's four coal-fired plants in South Carolina. In addition the company was forced to pay a $700,000 fine to the State of South Carolina and $1.3 million in civil penalty fines to the federal government. Santee Cooper is also forced to spend at least $4.5 million to finance "environmentally beneficial" projects in the state.
Mirant Clean Air Settlement
On May 8, 2006 Mirant Mid-Atlantic (Mirant) agreed to eliminate nearly 29,000 tons of harmful pollution each year that is produced by its four coal-fired electrical plants in Maryland and Virginia as a result of allegations that the company had violated New Source Review requirements of the Clean Air Act. The U.S. EPA, Department of Justice and the states of Virginia and Maryland worked on a joint settlement agreement, which sought to reduce the output of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from the four plants.
Under settlement terms, Mirant will cap NOx emissions on a system-wide basis from its Chalk Point Generating Station in Maryland, Dickerson Generating Station in Maryland, Morgantown Generating Station in Maryland, and its Potomac River Generating Station in Virginia. To meet these objectives Mirant will install pollution control equipment at its Potomac River and Morgantown power plants, and may also install controls at their other sites. According to Mirant, the company will be installing Flue gas desulfurization (scrubbers) to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) that will be operable by 2010. The EPA notes that Mirant will install and operate two Selective Catalytic Reduction devices to control for NOx emissions at its Morgantown facility, as well as Separated Over-Fire Air technology at the Potomac plant.
Mirant also paid a $500,000 civil penalty, which was divided between Virgina and the U.S. government. Additionally, Mirant will spend at least $1 million on nine separate projects to reduce fine particulate matter (PM) from its Potomac River Generating Station.
"The reductions in NOx emissions required by this settlement will result in general improved air quality throughout the metropolitan area and the surrounding region," said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Today's settlement is evidence of the continued progress that we are achieving through the cooperative enforcement efforts of federal and state agencies."
NOx contributes to the formation of acid rain and also increases low-level ozone, which causes smog, and fine PM causes haze.
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- EPA's Cases and Settlements Database U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Coal-Fired Power Plant Enforcement Initiative U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- "Coal-Fired Plant Enforcement Initiative," U.S. EPA, accessed November 4, 2009
- "Cases and Settlements," U.S. EPA, accessed November 4, 2009
- "U.S. files clean air lawsuit against Westar Energy," Reuters, February 5, 2009.
- "TVA settles with N.C. over coal plant emissions" News Observer.com, April 14, 2011.
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