One of the nation's largest power producers agrees to cut emissions‏

Nick Rees Dec. 22, 2009, 5:46pm

Andrew Cuomo (D)

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - New York and a coalition of states have joined the U.S. Department of Justice and environmental groups in reaching a settlement with one of the nation's largest power producers to reduce air pollution emissions and pay for environmental projects in New York, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has announced.

Duke Energy will cut almost 35,000 tons of sulfur dioxide emissions per year from its 550-megawatt Gallagher Generation Station in New Albany, Indiana as part of the settlement.

The agreement reduces sulfur emissions at the plant by 86 percent. In addition to the change in emissions, Duke Energy will also pay $400,000 to New York that will be used to fund projects that reduce air pollution and conserve energy.

Air pollution resulting from Duke Energy's emissions contributed to smog and soot pollution in New York, which threatens human health and is directly linked to increases in asthma attacks and lung diseases. They are also primary contributors to acid rain, which has damaged lakes, forests and wildlife in New York's Adirondack and Catskill regions severely.

"This settlement shows that New York will hold dirty coal-burning power companies accountable for breaking clean air laws," Cuomo said. "Duke Energy must eliminate tens of thousands of tons of air pollution each year that would have otherwise harmed the health of New Yorkers and our environment. We will continue to fight to clear the air for New Yorkers by pursuing the companies that pollute our skies and our lungs."

The attorney general's office, as part of a coalition of states including Connecticut and New Jersey, joined two environmental groups and the federal government in suing Duke Energy in August 2001. The lawsuit alleged violations of New Source Review provisions of the federal Clean Air Act and charged Duke Energy with modifying its facilities and increasing air pollution at four of its power plants in Indiana and Ohio without installing required pollution controls.

A jury found in May that Duke Energy had illegally modified two of its Gallagher plant's power producing units - units one and three. A trial on remedy has been scheduled for February 2010.

As part of the settlement, Duke Energy is required to either permanently shut down power-producing units one and three or convert them so that they burn natural gas instead of coal as fuel. Under either provision, the contribution to smog, soot pollution and acid rain will drop to almost zero, halving the plant's emission of global warming pollution.

Duke Energy is also required to install state-of-the-art pollution control technologies on units two and four, which will cuts the emissions of sulfur by the units and halve their contribution to soot pollution and acid rain. Units two and four were not named in the 2001 lawsuit.

A penalty of $1.75 million will be paid by Duke Energy as part of the settlement, which further requires the company to pay the state coalition a total of $1 million for environmental projects.

New York will receive $400,000 from that payment. Duke Energy will also spend $5.25 million on other environmental projects, including $250,000 to address acid rain in national forests and $5 million to fund projects to benefit regional air quality.

The settlement resolves the suit over CAA violations at Duke Energy's Gallagher power plant but legal action filed by Cuomo continues over violations at another of Duke Energy's power plants.

Duke Energy was found at trial in May 2008 to have illegally modified three power-producing units at its Wabash River plant in West Terra Haute, Indiana. In a subsequent trial, Duke Energy was ordered to shut down the three units no later than September 2009 and to permanently surrender 20,000 to 30,000 tons of pollution emission allowances. Duke Energy has appealed this order.

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