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Company Agrees To Reduce Almost 70,000 Tons Of Pollutants Annually

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency, along with the of South Carolina, today announced a major Clean Air Act settlement with the South Carolina Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper). The settlement resolves the federal government’s claims that Santee Cooper violated the Clean Air Act New Source Review program at several of its plants by undertaking construction activities and increasing emissions of air pollution without installing required pollution controls. The settlement is expected to eliminate almost 70,000 tons of harmful air pollutants annually from four of Santee Cooper’s existing coal-fired electricity generating plants in South Carolina.

Today’s settlement is consistent with a series of cases pursued by the federal government to bring the coal-fired power plant industry into full compliance with the New Source Review requirements of the Clean Air Act. The agreement requires Santee Cooper to install state-of-the-art controls on more than 83 percent of its existing total coal-fired megawatt generating capacity. Each year coal-fired power plants account for nearly 70 percent of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and 30 percent of nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions nationwide.

“Today’s settlement again demonstrates this Administration's commitment to secure major pollution reductions from coal-fired power plants,” said Tom Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The citizens of South Carolina will benefit from significant improvements in air quality. Santee Cooper deserves credit for stepping up to the plate and resolving this matter in a way that promotes the public interest.”

“The people of South Carolina will soon benefit from the responsible actions of Santee Cooper in cleaning up the emissions from their facilities,” said Phyllis Harris, acting Assistant Administrator of EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

“This settlement, which resolves an ongoing investigation by our agency, will ensure that South Carolina's good air quality will be even better,” said Earl Hunter, commissioner of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

In addition to requiring Santee Cooper to reduce 37,500 tons per year of SO2 and 29,500 tons per year of NOx from its existing coal-fired units, the settlement requires Santee Cooper to improve its control of particulate matter (PM). The company will also pay a $2 million civil penalty, $700,000 of which will go to the state of South Carolina, and will spend at least $4.5 million to finance projects that are environmentally beneficial, including: $1.25 million for a South Carolina Land Conservation Project, $1 million for an Energy-Efficient Technologies Project, $1 million for a Demand-Side Management Project, $1 million for a Clean Diesel School Bus Project, and $250,000 to implement an Environmental Management System.

Santee Cooper is a quasi-public South Carolina utility that operates four coal-fired power plants, a hydro plant, a nuclear plant, and several natural gas plants. The proposed settlement encompasses Santee Cooper’s ten existing units at the coal-fired power plants and two proposed coal-fired units. The existing units emitted over 130,000 tons of SO2 and NOx in 2002. Sulfur dioxide and NOx are significant contributors to acid rain; NOx also increases low-level ozone, which causes smog; fine PM causes haze. All these pollutants cause severe respiratory problems and exacerbate cases of childhood asthma.

The Department of Justice (DOJ), at EPA’s request, has filed lawsuits against several coal-fired electric utilities, most recently in January against East Kentucky Power Cooperative. EPA has also reached settlements with six other major coal-fired companies that result in the removal of over 590,000 tons of pollution from the air annually and the installation of over $3.5 billion worth of state-of-the-art air pollution controls.

The settlement was lodged today for a 30-day public comment period in the United States District Court for South Carolina.