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U.S. Announces Clean Air Act Settlement with Electric Utility

Release Date: 07/02/2007
Contact Information: Roxanne Smith, (202) 564-4355 / smith.roxanne@epa.gov

(Washington, D.C. - July 2, 2007) 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 violations of the Clean Air Act at its three plants, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today.

Today’s action is part of the EPA’s national effort to reduce harmful air emissions from coal-fired power plants across the country. Since 1999, the EPA and DOJ have reached settlements with 12 coal-fired power plants. The combined effect of these settlements will reduce emissions of air pollutants that cause smog, acid rain and haze by more than one million tons each year.

“This agreement will reduce harmful air pollutants by more than 60,000 tons per year,” said Granta Nakayama, EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “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.”

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

“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.”
As part of the settlement, the utility will also improve its control of particulate matter from each of the three plants.

“One of the most important things in our nation is having a healthy environment in which our children can grow,” Amul R. Thapar, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky said. “Companies must be held responsible for the well-being of the whole community they serve, including the health of the citizens and the environment.”

In 2004, the EPA and DOJ 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 therefore emit more pollutants.

Coal-fired power plants contribute some of the most severe environmental problems facing the nation today. Coal-fired plants release sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides, which cause severe respiratory problems, contribute to childhood asthma, and contribute to acid rain, smog, and haze. Emissions from power plants can drift significant distances downwind and degrade air quality in nearby areas.

Today’s 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.

Information on the settlement with East Kentucky Power Cooperative:

More information on the East Kentucky Power Cooperative settlement: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/caa/eastkentuckypower.html

More information on the Coal Fired Power Plant Enforcement Initiative: http://www.epa.gov/Compliance/resources/cases/civil/caa/coal/

Help EPA protect our nation's land, air and water by reporting violations: http://www.epa.gov/tips