Settlement Calls for Utility to Spend $650 Million on Air Pollution Controls

East Kentucky Power Cooperative, a coal-fired electric utility based in Winchester, Ky., will spend approximately $650 million on pollution controls and pay a $750,000 penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its three plants, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and EPA announced on July 2.

The utility will install state-of-the-art pollution control equipment to reduce emissions of pollutants that cause acid rain and smog by more than 60,000 tons per year. These actions will reduce annual emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxide by approximately 8,000 tons and sulfur dioxide by more than 54,000 tons per year from its plants in Spurlock, Dale and Cooper, Ky., when the controls are fully implemented. By installing these pollution control measures, the plants will emit 50 percent fewer nitrogen oxide and 75 percent less sulfur dioxide as compared to 2005 operations.

In addition, the utility will construct and demonstrate new technology to significantly reduce sulfuric acid mist emissions, a known public health threat, from coal-fired power plants.

"This 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 DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The emissions reductions from this settlement are substantial, and we are pleased that East Kentucky has agreed to bring its facilities into compliance with important provisions of the Clean Air Act."

Granta Nakayama, EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, stated: "This agreement will reduce harmful air pollutants by more than 60,000 tons per year. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides can cause serious respiratory problems and exacerbate asthma conditions. This settlement will improve air quality and protect public health for the residents of eastern Kentucky and surrounding areas."

East Kentucky also will improve its control of particulate matter from each of the three plants as part of the settlement.

In 2004, the federal government filed a lawsuit against the utility for illegally modifying and increasing air pollution at two of its coal-fired power plants. Specifically, the government cited the utility for constructing modifications at its plants without first obtaining necessary pre-construction permits and installing required pollution control equipment. Without the required permits or pollution control equipment, the modifications allowed the facilities to increase their electricity and steam production rates and, as a result, emit more pollutants.

The July 2 proposed agreement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. A copy of the consent decree will be available on the U.S. Justice Department Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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