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Release Date: 01/28/1998
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1064

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice today announced that they have settled a civil case with the Block Island Power Co. regarding the utility's violations of the Clean Air Act that began in 1981. The New Source Review program of the Clean Air Act requires operators of potential new sources of air pollution to obtain permits before constructing new units. Block Island Power Company is the sole utility on Block Island, and generates electric power on the island using diesel-powered generators that emit nitrogen oxides (NOx), an air pollutant that contributes to smog. From 1981 through 1993, Block Island Power installed a total of eight generators without obtaining necessary permits before construction.

The consent decree, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston today, requires Block Island Power to eliminate or upgrade pollution-causing generators on Block Island and pay a civil penalty of $90,000.

Block Island Power is already pursuing plans to install an underwater transmission cable, which was approved by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission last summer. The cable will allow the company to get its electricity from the mainland instead of relying on diesel generators on the island. The consent decree requires that the cable be installed and operating by December 30, 2000. Should the cable project be delayed, Block Island Power would have to install state-of-the-art pollution control technology on the generators to cut nitrogen oxide emissions by 90-95%.

"Settlement of this case and installation of the cable will result in dramatic reductions in air pollutants that are direct contributors to smog," said John P. DeVillars, administrator of the EPA's New England Office. "What I mean by dramatic is going from 135 tons of nitrogen oxide emissions per year down to virtually zero emissions. Rhode Island is designated in 'serious nonattainment' for ozone which threatens the health of every citizen, and this agreement brings the state closer to complying with federal clean air requirements."

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