BALTIMORE (Legal Newsline) - Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler announced an $8.5 million multi-state settlement Friday with Ohio-based American Electric Power that will also reduce air pollution emissions from the company's coal-fired electric power plants.

Under the terms of the consent decree, AEP and its subsidiaries must meet more stringent emissions reductions of sulfur dioxide at its plants east of the Mississippi River, reduce its total SO2 emissions by approximately 90 percent from its baseline emissions prior to a 2007 air pollution settlement, pay $6 million to fund environmental mitigation programs in eight states and pay $2.5 million in mitigation funds to citizen groups in Indiana.

The eight states that will split the $6 million portion of the settlement include Maryland, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The eight-state coalition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and multiple citizen groups jointly negotiated the settlement, which enhances a 2007 air pollution settlement with AEP.

"With this agreement, we've accelerated a timetable that will help make Maryland's air cleaner for decades to come," Gansler said. "Marylanders have been subjected to harmful emissions from out-of-state power plants for far too long. The 2007 agreement was historic in its size and scope and we just made it even better for the citizens of Maryland and the entire Mid-Atlantic region."

Maryland's portion of the settlement for environmental mitigation is approximately $714,000.

Prior to 2007, AEP's baseline SO2 emissions were approximately 828,000 tons annually from its plants east of the Mississippi River. The modified consent decree prohibits AEP from emitting more than 145,000 tons of SO2 annually by 2016 and to further reduce SO2 emissions to 94,000 tons annually by 2029.

Sulfur dioxide contributes to the formation of fine particulates and sulfates that can cause or worsen respiratory illnesses in vulnerable populations, such as small children and the elderly. SO2 also contributes to acid rain, which can destroy plant and animal life, deteriorate buildings, and damage forests and farmland.

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