The Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin announced a Clean Air Act (CAA) settlement with Wisconsin Power and Light Company (WPL) that will significantly reduce air pollution from three coal-fired power plants located near Portage, Sheboygan, and Cassville, Wis.
WPL operates the plants that are covered by the settlement, and the other defendants, Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPSC), Madison Gas and Electric Company, and Wisconsin Electric Power Company, are co- and former owners of the units. WPL and its co-defendants agreed to invest more than $1 billion in pollution control technology, spend a total of $8.5 million on environmental mitigation projects, and pay a civil penalty of $2.45 million to resolve alleged violations of the CAA.
“This settlement will improve air quality in Wisconsin and downwind areas by significantly reducing releases of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and other harmful pollutants,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “This agreement also demonstrates the Justice Department’s commitment to enforcing the New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act, which help ensure clean air for those communities affected by large sources of air pollution.”
“EPA is committed to protecting communities by reducing air pollution from the largest sources of emissions,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “The pollution reductions and the significant investment in local environmental projects required under this agreement will ensure that the people of Wisconsin and neighboring states have cleaner, healthier air.”
“One of the many things that makes Wisconsin special is our clean air,” said John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin. “With this settlement, the facilities’ owners are held accountable and required to mitigate the harm caused by their unlawful pollution of Wisconsin’s air. Cleaner air protects the health of our citizens, our forests, crops, and water, and all of us who treasure Wisconsin’s clean environment. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin is committed to taking a leadership role in protecting the environment in Wisconsin.”
Under the settlement, the defendants must install new pollution control technology on the three largest units, continuously operate the new and existing pollution controls, and comply with stringent pollutant emission rates and annual tonnage limitations. The settlement also requires WPL and WPSC to permanently retire, refuel or repower four additional coal-fired units at the Edgewater and Nelson Dewey plants. The actions taken to comply with this settlement will result in annual reductions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) of approximately 54,000 tons from 2011 levels. This settlement covers all seven coal-fired boilers at the Columbia, Edgewater, and Nelson Dewey power plants.
The settlement also requires the defendants to spend $8.5 million on projects that will benefit the environment and human health in communities located near the facilities, including $260,500 to the U.S. Forest Service and $260,500 to the National Park Service, to be used on projects to address the damage done from the emissions. The remaining $7.479 million will be spent on a combination projects, including up to $2.1 million on land acquisition and restoration; up to $5 million on a long term major solar photovoltaic (PV) power purchase agreement or a solar PV panels installation project; and up to $2 million on renewable energy resource enhancements for existing wind farms and hydroelectric facilities.
Reducing air pollution from the largest sources of emissions, including coal-fired power plants, is one of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011-2013. SO2 and NOx, two key pollutants emitted from power plants, have numerous adverse effects on human health and are significant contributors to acid rain, smog and haze. These pollutants are converted in the air to fine particles of particulate matter that can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts, and premature death. Reducing these harmful air pollutants will benefit the communities located near the facilities, particularly communities disproportionately impacted by environmental risks and vulnerable populations, including children. Because air pollution from power plants can travel significant distances downwind, this settlement will also reduce air pollution outside the immediate region.
This is the 26th judicial settlement secured by the Justice Department and EPA as part of a national enforcement initiative to control harmful emissions from power plants under the CAA’s New Source Review requirements. The total combined sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emission reductions secured from these settlements will exceed 2 million tons each year once all the required pollution controls have been installed and implemented.
Sierra Club is co-plaintiff to the settlement.
The settlement was lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. A copy of the consent decree lodged today is available on the Department of Justice website at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html
More information about the settlement: www.epa.gov/enforcement/air/cases/wisconsinpower.html
More information about EPA’s enforcement initiative: www.epa.gov/compliance/data/planning/initiatives/2011airpollution.html