Federal Government Reaches $60.7 Million Clean Air Act Settlement with Nevada Power

Two months after reaching a $90 million settlement over violations at its Reid Gardner coal-fired electric generating plant, Nevada Power has reached a $60.7 million Clean Air Act settlement resolving alleged violations related to its Clark Generating Station in Las Vegas, Nev.

The settlement, announced on June 13, resolves the federal government's claims that Nevada Power violated the New Source Review (NSR) provisions of the Clean Air Act at its Clark Generating Station by undertaking modifications of combustion turbines and increasing emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) without installing the required air pollution controls. According to Nevada Power, the company believed Clark County officials properly determined no permit was required, but EPA disagreed some years later. While Nevada Power officials said they still think the company complied fully with the law, it has chosen to reduce emissions and improve air quality, rather than litigate this dispute with EPA.

"The spirit of cooperation with the EPA will continue going forward since our company's ultimate goal is always to meet or exceed environmental standards, and we will continue to do so," said Roberto Denis, the company's senior vice president for energy supply. "We do not take that responsibility lightly and are committed stewards of our environment."

This is the first NSR settlement with an electric utility concerning alleged violations at a gas-fired power plant, EPA officials said. It is also the second NSR settlement in the past year in the Western United States.

"The substantial reductions in air pollutants from Clark Station will improve the air quality in Nevada," said Ronald J.Tenpas, acting assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice Department's (DOJ) Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We are pleased that Nevada Power has decided to come into compliance and to reduce air pollution."

NOx causes severe respiratory problems and contributes to childhood asthma. NOx also is a significant contributor to smog and haze. Air pollution from power plants can travel a significant distance downwind, crossing state lines and creating region-wide health problems.

Under the proposed settlement, Nevada Power will install pollution controls on Units 5, 6, 7 and 8 at Clark Station. These pollution controls are estimated to cost about $60 million and will be installed beginning in 2008. Emissions of NOx are expected to be reduced by about 2,300 tons per year from 2004 to 2005 levels, an 86 percent reduction.

Nevada Power also will pay a $300,000 civil penalty and fund a $400,000 environmental mitigation project, the installation of solar arrays on a non-profit's building in the Las Vegas area.

The Nevada Power settlement was lodged on June 13 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada and is subject to a 30-day public comment period. A copy of the consent decree will be available on the DOJ's Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

The previous settlement can be found in April archives of www.eponline.com (see article titled "Nevada Power Agrees To $90 Million for Air Pollution Violations").

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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