Feds, Madigan sue over coal-fired plants

Chris Rizo Aug. 27, 2009, 2:51pm

Lisa Madigan (D)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Legal Newsline)-Federal officials on Thursday filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Illinois attorney general and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, alleging that a company that runs six coal-fired power plants in the state is flouting federal air pollution laws.

The lawsuit, filed in Chicago federal court, claims that Midwest Generation LLC altered its coal-fired plants in Illinois without installing pollution control equipment that is required under federal law.

As a result of the company's failure, officials said the six power plants are spewing large amounts of such pollutants as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere.

In a statement, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, said the company's actions pose a public health risk. Midwest Generation owns two plants in Chicago, two in Will County, a facility outside Peoria and a sixth plant in Waukegan.

"I am very concerned about the negative health effects that these aging plants have on the people who live in the communities where the Midwest Gen facilities are located," Madigan said. "All Midwest Generation power plants must comply with the Clear Air Act and the Illinois Environmental Protection Act to safeguard public health and the environment."

Midwest Generation is a subsidiary of Rosemead, Calif.-based Edison International. The company's six Illinois plants have a combined capacity of more than 6,000 megawatts.

The lawsuit seeks to force Midwest Generation to install antipollution equipment in addition to fines and penalties that could total millions of dollars.

"The excess illegal emissions resulting from the violations alleged in the complaint are sufficient to cause serious harm to human health and the environment. Today's federal court filing is the first step in this litigation and it demonstrates our commitment to ensuring compliance with environmental laws in the energy sector," said John Cruden of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

The company said in a statement that it is open to settlement talks.

"While we remain open to exploring settlement of this complaint, we have a progressive record of environmental performance and leadership that we will be prepared to vigorously present and defend," the statement said.

The case is USA and Illinois v. Midwest Generation LLC, 09-cv-05277.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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