U.S. Imposes Highest Acid Rain Fine in Its History on Kentucky Utility
The East Kentucky Power Cooperative, a coal-fired electric utility, has agreed to pay an $11.4 million penalty to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act’s acid rain program.
The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the settlement, the highest fine ever under the Clean Air Act’s acid rain program. The Commonwealth of Kentucky joined in the settlement.
Coal-fired plants release sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides, which are a primary cause of acid rain that harms trees and lakes and impairs visibility.
Nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides also cause severe respiratory problems, contribute to childhood asthma and exacerbate smog and haze. Emissions from power plants can drift long distances downwind degrading air quality as they go.
Under the terms of the settlement, the company must take steps to reduce 400 tons of harmful emissions each year and offset another 20,000 tons of emissions released from its Clark County, Ky., facility without a permit.
The government estimates that the utility’s Dale Generating Station emitted over 15,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 4,000 tons of nitrogen oxide without a permit during the period from 2000 through 2005. In addition, the government alleges the utility exceeded the federal annual emission rate for nitrogen oxides.
The utility must now apply for an acid rain permit, continuously monitor sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides and install and operate nitrogen oxide controls. These pollution controls will reduce annual nitrogen oxide emissions by approximately 400 tons per year.
Coal-fired power plants are allowed to emit sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in the form of allowances, which are granted under federal or state acid rain permits based on a national annual emissions cap.
If a utility emits less, it can sell unused allowances to other utilities or save them for use later. If it emits more, it must purchase allowances from other utilities and surrender those allowances to EPA.
In this case, East Kentucky is required to purchase and retire allowances representing 20,000 tons of emissions, which represents the company’s emissions during the period of noncompliance.
Today’s agreement allows the company to pay the $11.4 million penalty over six years.
Last July, East Kentucky agreed to install pollution controls estimated to cost $650 million and to pay a $750,000 penalty to resolve violations of the new source review provisions of the Clean Air Act at the Dale facility and two other plants.
Source: Environmental News Service (ENS).