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Coal Plant Settlement is Victory for Public Health
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by Virginia Cramer (National Media Team) and Paul Wilson (Chapter Chair) | 2007

A long legal battle results in a huge victory to clean up coal-fired power plants in Appalachian states

In a huge victory for public health, energy giant American Electric Power (AEP) agreed on October 9th to markedly reduce hazardous air pollution from dozens of its coal-fired power plants in the OhioValley and Appalachia.  This settlement will dramatically improve air quality and reduce health risks to neighboring communities.

After almost eight years of refusing to clean up its dirtiest plants, AEP has agreed to cut its nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions- pollutants which cause smog and acid rain- by hundreds of thousands of tons.  The complaints targeted illegal modifications at 30 out of 46 of AEP’s units at a number of power plants in AEP’s so-called “eastern system.” The complaints alleged that AEP made major modifications to large power plants without installing the controls necessary under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review provisions to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emissions.

The move is part of a landmark settlement with the Sierra Club and other environmental and governmental organizations, which also require that all pollution reductions come from actual on-the-ground improvements, not purchased pollution credits or allowances.  AEP will spend approximately $4.6 billion to install extensive pollution controls on dozens of the most polluting units in its eastern system.

The settlement of this suit will affect AEP’s West Virginia coal-fired power plants in St. Albans (3 units of the John E. Amos power plant), in Moundsville (3 units of the Kammer power plant), in Glasgow (2 units of the Kanawha River power plant), in Moundsville (2 units of the Mitchell power plant), and in New Haven (1 unit of the Mountaineer power plant and 5 units of the Philip Sporn power plant).

“AEP is operating some of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the nation,” said Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope. “After years of trying to evade installing proper pollution controls, AEP is finally cleaning up their old power plants.  The massive reductions in smog, fine soot and acid rain from these plants will profoundly benefit both public health and the environment.”

The company will spend another $60 million dollars to fund environmental projects aimed to mitigate damages resulting from AEP’s unlawfully high pollutant emissions over the past decade; AEP will also pay a civil fine of $15 million to the federal government for failing to install modern pollution controls as required under the Clean Air Act.  Over one-third of the mitigation funds will be dedicated to state specific clean up projects, with funds also delegated to remedy damages to the Chesapeake Bay and ShenandoahNational Park.   

“Dozens of coal plants across the country still lack modern pollution controls- jeopardizing our air, water and health,” said Bruce Nilles, Director of the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign. “We need to clean up the dirty business of coal, making sure coal is mined responsibly and burned cleanly. But more importantly we need to start looking at cleaner sources of energy that can meet our needs, while protecting public health, reducing global warming pollution, creating jobs and boosting the economy.”

Other plaintiffs in this litigation included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maryland, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and 13 other environmental groups which included the West Virginia Environmental Council.

For more information on this settlement and to find out more about the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign visit http://www.sierraclub.org/coal/

 

 

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