U.S. Announces Clean Air Act Settlement With Wisconsin Utility

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a Clean Air Act (CAA) settlement with Dairyland Power Cooperative (DPC) that will cover the utility’s three power plants in Alma and Genoa, Wis. DPC has agreed to invest approximately $150 million in pollution control technology that will protect public health and resolve violations of the CAA. The settlement will also require that DPC spend $5 million on environmental mitigation projects and pay a civil penalty of $950,000.

“EPA is committed to protecting communities by reducing air pollution from the largest sources of emissions,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “The pollution reductions and the significant investment in local environmental projects under this agreement will ensure that the people of Wisconsin and neighboring states have cleaner, healthier air.”

“This settlement will improve air quality in Wisconsin and downwind areas by significantly reducing releases of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and other harmful pollutants,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “This agreement also demonstrates the Justice Department’s commitment to enforcing the New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act, which help ensure cleaner air for those communities located near large sources of air pollution.”

Under the settlement, DPC must install pollution control technology on its three largest units and will be required to continuously operate the new and existing pollution controls and will be required to comply with stringent emission rates and annual tonnage limitations. The settlement also requires DPC to permanently retire three additional coal-fired units at the Alma plant, which have been out of operation since last year. The permanent retirement of these units will ensure that they do not restart without first complying with the CAA. The actions taken by DPC to comply with this settlement will result in annual reductions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 23,000 tons and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions by 6,000 tons from 2008 levels, in addition to significant reductions of particulate matter emissions. This settlement covers all seven coal-fired boilers at DPC’s three power plants.

The settlement also requires DPC to spend $5 million on projects that will benefit the environment and human health in communities located near the DPC facilities. DPC must pay $250,000 each to the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service, to be used on projects to address the damage done from DPC’s alleged excess emissions. At least $2 million will be spent on a major solar photovoltaic development project. The remaining mitigation funding will be spent on one or more of the following projects: 1) installation of solar photovoltaic panels, 2) home weatherization projects, and 3) the replacement of DPC’s standard vehicle fleet with cleaner burning vehicles. The Sierra Club is a party to the settlement, which will also resolve violations alleged by Sierra Club in related litigation.

Reducing air pollution from the largest sources of emissions, including coal-fired power plants, is one of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011-2013. SO2 and NOx, two key pollutants emitted from power plants, have numerous adverse effects on human health and are significant contributors to acid rain, smog and haze. These pollutants are converted in the air to fine particles of particulate matter that can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts, and premature death. Reducing these harmful air pollutants will benefit the communities located near DPC facilities, particularly communities disproportionately impacted by environmental risks and vulnerable populations, including children. Because air pollution from power plants can travel significant distances downwind, this settlement will also reduce air pollution outside the immediate region.

This is the 22nd judicial settlement secured by the Justice Department and EPA, and the 23rd settlement overall, as part of a national enforcement initiative to control harmful emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review requirements. The total combined sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emission reductions secured from these settlements will exceed nearly 2 million tons each year once all the required pollution controls have been installed and implemented.

The settlement was lodged yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

 

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