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EPA/DOJ Enforcement Case Brings Clean Air Benefits to Boston

Release Date: 01/30/04
Contact Information: Contact: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1008 Blain K. Rethmeier, DOJ Public Affairs (202-514-2007)

For Immediate Release: January 30, 2004; Release # 04-01-16

$6 Million Settlement Includes Largest School Bus Pollution Control Project in Country
BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice today announced that they have reached a $6 million enforcement case settlement with a local power plant that will result in significant air quality improvements for Boston school children and North Shore commuters, as well as a restored salt marsh in Chelsea and construction of a new commuter bike path across the Mystic River that will link Everett and Somerville.

In a settlement stemming from air quality violations over a five-year period at the Mystic Station power plant in Everett, plant owner Exelon Mystic LLC has agreed to pay a $1 million civil penalty and fund more than $5 million of environmental projects in the Boston area. The settlement was filed in US District Court late yesterday in Boston.

Among the projects is $3.25 million to retrofit 500 Boston school buses with pollution control equipment and supply them with ultra low-polluting diesel fuel. The project, which will benefit more than 28,000 school children who ride the buses every day, will reduce tailpipe emissions from the buses by more than 90 percent, or more than 30 tons a year. Upon being completed in 2005, Boston will be the first major city in the country to have retrofitted its entire school bus fleet.

The settlement also includes $1.25 million for pollution control improvements to virtually all of the commuter rail trains operating out of Boston's North Station rail terminal and $250,000 to build a commuter bike path along the Amelia Earhart Dam on the Mystic River. The new bike path over the dam will connect existing bike paths in Everett and Somerville.

"This settlement is a big victory for Boston's air quality and the millions of area residents who breathe that air every day," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "In addition to reducing particulate pollution from the Mystic power plant, Boston-area residents can look forward to hundreds of cleaner school buses, cleaner trains, restored wetlands and a new bike path linking Everett and Somerville."

"The extraordinary benefits in today's settlement will be directly passed on to the residents of the Boston area with a cleaner and safer environment in which to live," said Thomas Sansonetti, assistant attorney general at the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The decision by Exelon Mystic to cooperate and work with the government to address the environmental issues rather than engage in prolonged and counterproductive litigation should be commended."

The Boston school bus project is part of a major push by EPA to curb school bus emissions all across the country. Speaking in Pittsburgh, EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt announced today that President Bush's 2005 budget proposal will include an unprecedented $60 million in new funding to expand the agency's Clean School Bus USA program, a national partnership to reduce the emission of air pollutants from school buses. The increase from $5 million to $65 million was announced during a visit to an elementary school that is equipping its school bus fleet with state-of-the-art emissions control devices.

Located just over the Boston city line, the 2,600-megawatt Mystic Station power plant includes three 1950s-era oil fired units (400 megawatts total), a larger, primarily oil-fired unit (600 megawatts) built in the 1970s, and two brand new units (1,600 megawatts total) that burn only natural gas. EPA's complaint alleged over 6,000 violations of the Clean Air Act's opacity limits at the four oil-fired units from June 1998 to November 2003. Opacity is a measure of smoke thickness, and is regulated to prevent visible air pollutants such as soot and other particulate matter from polluting the air. Most of the violations took place at the three oldest units, which virtually ceased operations in March 2003.

Fine particulate matter from combustion sources such as power plants is a serious public health concern, particularly for sensitive populations such as children, the elderly and asthmatics. Asthma is the leading cause of childhood emergency room hospitalizations in Boston. In some Boston neighborhoods, including Roxbury and Dorchester, asthma rates are more than double the state average.

After EPA issued a Notice of Violation in 2001 and a Compliance Order in 2002, Mystic spent over $2.5 million on new equipment and operating procedures, which dramatically improved the plant's compliance with opacity regulations and reduced its particulate emissions.

Under the settlement announced today, Exelon will pay a $1 million fine and spend over $5.1 million on five local environmental projects. The projects include:

    • Spend $3.25 million to retrofit school buses with pollution reduction devices and supply them with ultra low sulfur diesel fuel for two years. Exelon is planning to work with the City of Boston and aims to retrofit over 500 school buses by September 2005. The project builds on a similar bus retrofit project in an EPA enforcement settlement three years ago with Waste Management of Massachusetts Inc., which has nearly finished retrofitting 100 Boston school buses with pollution control equipment. Together, the two projects will retrofit virtually the entire Boston school bus fleet. Estimated emission reductions over the first two years of the Exelon project are over 4.5 tons of particulate matter, over 12 tons of smog-causing hydrocarbons, and over 41 tons of carbon monoxide.
    • Spend $1.25 million to equip diesel locomotive engines of 15 to 20 commuter rail trains operating out of Boston's North Station rail terminal with oxidation catalysts (to reduce particulate matter) and supply the trains with low-sulfur diesel fuel for three years. The result will be cleaner air for the 47,000 passengers who ride the North Station commuter trains each day, and for the residents of the many communities through which the trains pass. Over three years, the project will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 258 tons and particulate matter by 44 tons.
    • Spend $250,000 on a project with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation to build a commuter bike path link over the Amelia Earhart Dam on the Mystic River. The project will connect Everett and Somerville and link several existing and planned bike paths in Medford, Everett, Somerville and Charlestown. The project will encourage commuter bike traffic on metropolitan area bike paths, thereby reducing air pollutants from automobile exhaust.
    • Spend $250,000 on a project to restore one acre of an urban salt marsh along Mill Creek in Chelsea. Exelon is planning to work with the Chelsea Green Space & Recreation Committee and the Urban Ecology Institute to implement this project. The restoration will provide environmental benefits and wildlife habitat, as well as needed coastal access, passive recreation, green space and environmental opportunities to the residents of Chelsea and surrounding communities. Following construction, the project will provide for oversight and educational activities for a period of at least two years.
    • Spend $118,600 to fund an environmental assessment and feasibility study to identify possible restoration activities along the Malden River, including the identification and potential restoration/replication of lost or degraded wetlands habitat. The study will build on preliminary data collection and other work being performed in a study overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Mystic Valley Development Commission.

Related Information:
Air Enforcement
Air Quality (Particulate Matter & Haze)
School Bus Retrofit Projects in New England
Clean School Bus USA
(EPA HQ)