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Utility agrees to clean up coal power plants

/ Source: The Associated Press

Dynegy Inc. will install $500 million in pollution controls at five coal-fired power plants and pay a $9 million fine to settle a federal lawsuit alleging Clean Air Act violations, the Bush administration announced Monday.

The settlement requires Dynegy to reduce by more than half its emissions of two air pollutants that contribute to respiratory ailments and childhood asthma. The company has agreed to cut yearly pollution from acid rain-causing sulfur dioxide by 39,000 tons and from smog-forming nitrogen oxides by 14,800 tons.

Filed in federal district court in East St. Louis, Ill. on Monday, the settlement results from violations of the Clean Air Act’s 1977 “new source review” program at Baldwin Generating Station in Baldwin, Ill., Assistant Attorney General Thomas Sansonetti said.

That program requires companies to seek a permit when expanding or modifying, and to install more pollution controls when pollution is significantly increased. Sansonetti said negotiations began a few months ago after the case had gone to trial, but “this is much better than what we could have won at trial.” Four environmental groups also had intervened.

“Even if we had won, we still would have to litigate the remedy,” he said. “There would have been another trial to determine what kind of controls we were entitled to.”

The agreement involving the company, the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois is the eighth in a series with coal-fired power plant operators. Sansonetti said the $9 million civil penalty was the highest yet, and he was confident the settlement would provide cleaner air regionally.

Dynegy Midwest Generation also will transfer ownership of about 1,135 acres along the Middle Fork of the Vermillion River in Vermillion County, Ill.

Thomas Skinner, acting head of EPA enforcement and former director of Illinois’ EPA office, said the result would be “significantly cleaner air for residents of Illinois and downwind states.”

The Illinois plants covered in the agreement are the one in Baldwin, Havana Generating Station in Havana, Hennepin Generating Station in Hennepin, Vermilion Generating Station in Oakwood, and Wood River Generating Station in Alton.