WASHINGTON — The United States has filed a complaint against Westar Energy alleging that the company violated the Clean Air Act by making major modifications to the Jeffrey Energy Center, a coal-fired power plant in St. Marys, Kan., without also installing and operating modern pollution control equipment, the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.
The complaint alleges that for more than a decade, the Jeffrey Energy Center has operated without the best available emissions-control technology required by the New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act to control emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, contributing to formation of fine particulate matter, smog and acid rain.
The lawsuit, filed by the Justice Department on behalf of the EPA, asks the court to order Westar Energy to install and operate appropriate air pollution control technology in order to substantially reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions from the Jeffrey Energy Center. The United States also seeks civil penalties up to the maximum amount authorized by law, as well as actions by the energy provider to mitigate the adverse effects alleged to have been caused by the violations.
Coal-fired power plants collectively produce more pollution than any other industry in the United States. They account for nearly 70 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions each year and 20 percent of nitrogen oxides emissions. Emissions from coal-fired power plants have detrimental health effects on asthma sufferers, the elderly and children. Additionally, these emissions have been linked to forest degradation, waterway damage, reservoir contamination and deterioration of stone and copper in buildings.
To combat these adverse effects, the EPA and the Justice Department are pursuing a national initiative, targeting electric utilities whose coal-fired power plants violate the law. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan.