Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, January 4, 2013
U.S. Announces Clean Air Act Settlement with Wisconsin Utility

 WASHINGTON – The Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPS) will invest approximately $300 million in pollution control technology, pay a civil penalty of $1.2 million, and spend $6 million on environmental mitigation projects to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA), according to the terms of a settlement with the United States, announced today by the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
 
 “This settlement will eliminate thousands of tons of harmful air pollution each year, thus improving air quality in Wisconsin and downwind areas,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “The agreement, which requires WPS to reduce emissions from both of its coal-fired power plants in Wisconsin, demonstrates the Justice Department’s continuing efforts, along with EPA, to bring large sources of air pollution into compliance with the Clean Air Act.”

“EPA is committed to protecting communities from the pollution problems that matter most, including 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 under this agreement will ensure that the people of Wisconsin and neighboring states have cleaner, healthier air.”

“This resolution of the Clean Air Act claims against WPS not only ensures that the damage to our environment from past, excessive emissions will be addressed but that residents throughout the region will benefit from the latest technology, resulting in significant future reductions in air pollutants,” said James L. Santelle, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.  “The Justice Department and the EPA are strongly committed to promote innovative, alternative, and renewable sources of energy that also ensure that our next generations will breathe air that does not compromise their health.  Today’s settlement promotes both goals—and accomplishes environmental justice for all Americans.”

The settlement, which covers the utility’s two power plants – the Pulliam plant in Green Bay, Wis., and the Weston plant in Rothschild, Wis. – requires WPS to install new pollution control technology on one of its largest units, to continuously operate the new and existing pollution controls, and to comply with stringent emission rates and annual tonnage limitations. The settlement also requires WPS to permanently retire, refuel or repower four additional coal-fired units at the Pulliam and Weston plants. The actions taken by WPS to comply with this settlement will result in annual reductions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter emissions by approximately 15,000 tons from 2010 levels. This settlement covers all eight coal-fired boilers at WPS’s two power plants.

WPS will also spend $6 million on projects that will benefit the environment and human health in communities located near the WPS facilities. WPS must pay $250,000 each to the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service, to be used on projects to address the damage done from WPS’s alleged excess air emissions. Up to $4 million will be spent on a renewable energy resource enhancement project, up to $1.2 million on a wood stove change-out project, and up to $300,000 on a community digester project to convert food and/or animal waste to biogas or electricity. WPA may also fund a compressed natural gas or hybrid fleet conversion project, or a solar panel installation project. 
 
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 WPS 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 of the immediate region.

This is the 25th settlement secured as part of EPA’s national enforcement initiative to control harmful emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act’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.

The settlement was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. It will be available for viewing at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

More information about the settlement: www.epa.gov/enforcement/air/cases/wps.html

More information about EPA’s enforcement initiative: www.epa.gov/compliance/data/planning/initiatives/2011airpollution.html

13-014