The agreement with the federal government resolves violations of the Clean Air Act's new source review requirements at the utility's Gorsuch Station, which has a sulfur dioxide emission rate in the highest three percent of coal-fired utility sources in the country, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
As part of the settlement, American Municipal Power will spend $15 million on an environmental mitigation project and pay a civil penalty of $850,000, the Justice Department and the EPA announced today.
Richard H. Gorsuch Station coal-fired power plant (Photo by GB Packards)
The aging former Union Carbide Steam Station sits on the west bank of the Ohio River south of Marietta. Under the settlement, AMP will permanently retire the Gorsuch Station by December 31, 2012, and implement interim sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emission limits until that date. AMP also will enhance pollution controls to reduce particulate matter emissions.
AMP made a business decision that shutting down the plant and providing for replacement energy was its preferred option for bringing the plant into compliance.
"Today's settlement substantially reduces harmful air pollution from coal-fired power plants, and requires a large scale energy efficiency program within the AMP community," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
"These pollutants can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts, and are significant contributors to acid rain, smog, and haze," said Giles. "Coal-fired power plants of all sizes are large sources of air emissions, and EPA is committed to making sure that they all comply with the law."
The settlement will further EPA's commitment to reduce nitrogen oxide pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, North America's largest estuary. The Gorsuch plant is located in the Chesapeake Bay airshed, and AMP's commitment to retire the plant will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions in that area by about 3,160 tons per year, the EPA says.
The settlement requires AMP to spend $15 million on an energy efficiency project to benefit the environment and mitigate the adverse effects of the alleged violations.
The project will provide energy efficiency services in lighting, refrigerator replacement and removal, and installation of building heating and cooling systems to all of the municipalities and their customers served by the Gorsuch Station.
The energy efficiency services are designed to achieve a minimum reduction of 70,000 megawatt hours, equivalent to the electricity use of more than 6,000 homes for one year.
Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, said, "This settlement will remove harmful emissions from this coal-fired power plant by tens of thousands of tons each year and will significantly benefit air quality. We are also pleased that AMP has shown creative leadership to implement a program that encourages efficient energy use."
The settlement is part of the EPA's national enforcement initiative to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act's New Source Review requirements.
Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, emitted by coal-fired power plants, have numerous adverse effects on human health and the environment, according to the EPA. They contribute to acid rain, smog, and haze and are converted in the air to fine particles of particulate matter that can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts, and premature death.
In addition, air pollution from power plants can drift far downwind, affecting not only local communities, but also communities in a much broader area.
Based in Columbus, Ohio, AMP purchases, generates and distributes electric power for 128 publicly owned utilities serving more than 570,000 customers in six states: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The proposed settlement was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
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