Schneiderman Suit Seeks Full Compliance with Clean Air Laws, Including Installation of State-of-the-Art Pollution Controls to Cut Pollution Emissions
NEW YORK, NY (January 6, 2011) – New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced Thursday Jan. 6, 2011, that he is taking action to sue a major Pennsylvania electric power plant over multiple violations of the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) at the facility.
The plant, Homer City Station, is the largest out-of-state contributor of sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution to New York. The facility emits approximately 100,000 tons of SO2 annually – more than twice as much of this harmful pollutant as all of the power plants operating in New York combined.
“The owners of this power plant have repeatedly thumbed their noses at clean air laws, while dumping more than double the sulfur dioxide pollution into our air and lungs as all of the power plants operating in New York combined,” Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said today. “Their disregard for New Yorkers is simply unconscionable, and as Attorney General, I am committed to taking the fight to those who endanger the health and environment of New York. This lawsuit reflects my commitment, holding the owners of the Homer City power plant accountable for breaking the law, and polluting the air that New Yorkers breathe.”
Attorney General Schneiderman is joined by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) in this action. Attorney General Schneiderman and PADEP charge that the current and former owners of Homer City Station ignored CAA requirements that state-of-the-art pollution controls be installed at the plant when it underwent several major modifications in the 1990s that increased its pollution emissions. The lawsuit seeks to require the companies to comply fully with the Act, including installing state-of-the-art pollution controls to address these pollution increases.
Homer City Station is a 1,884 megawatt electric power generating plant located in Homer City, Pennsylvania, roughly 50 miles east of Pittsburgh. The plant annually emits over 100,000 tons of SO2. Air emissions from the plant contribute to fine particulate matter pollution in New York, and pollutants contained in the plant’s emissions are directly linked to increases in asthma attacks, lung diseases, and other health problems. The pollutant is also a primary contributor to acid rain, which has severely damaged lakes, forests, and wildlife throughout New York’s Adirondack and Catskill regions.
Attorney General Schneiderman and PADEP charge that, in violation of several provisions of the CAA, the owners of the Homer City plant made a number of physical or operational changes to the plant between 1991 and 1996 that resulted in increases in emissions of SO2 that continue to this day. The Act requires that major modifications that increase pollutant emissions be accompanied by the installation of state-of-the-art pollution controls. The owners and operator of Homer City Station are charged with consistently ignoring these and other requirements of the CAA in the course of modifying and operating the facility.
Scott T. Santarella, President and CEO of the American Lung Association in New York, said, “We applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for taking action to force Homer City Plant to stop polluting New York’s air and comply with federal clean air laws. Our State of the Air 2010 report showed that over 12 million New Yorkers live in counties where air pollution threatens their lives and health. We are pleased that one of the new Attorney General’s first actions is to enforce clean air laws and protect the health of New Yorkers’ lungs.”
Neil Woodworth, Executive Director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said, “Pollution from power plants like the Homer City Station have had devastating impacts on the Adirondacks, the Catskills and other wild areas in the Northeast. Because of acid rain, a quarter of the lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks have become too acidic to support aquatic life, and sugar maple and red spruce trees are more vulnerable to insects and winter kill. Attorney General Schneiderman is getting off to an excellent start by taking action to reverse these impacts.”
Katherine Kennedy, Counsel to the Air & Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “This action by Attorney General Schneiderman will allow all New Yorkers to breathe easier, and will help prevent lung disease and premature death for the most vulnerable. The Attorney General’s early start to fighting for cleaner air is a welcome New Year’s gift and a demonstration of his commitment to protecting New York’s environment and public health.”
Albert E. Caccese, Executive Director of Audubon New York, the state program of the National Audubon Society, said, “Audubon New York commends Attorney General Schneiderman for hitting the ground running to protect our clean air and other natural resources from dirty out of state power plants. Acid rain from air pollution has plagued the forests, waterways and other important bird habitats of New York State for far too long, and the Attorney General’s action today sends a strong signal to other power plants in the region that violations of clean air laws will not be tolerated.”
Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said, “Enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act is essential and it benefits every single New Yorker. Pollutants from the Homer City Station power plant degrade our health, water, forests and air. Congratulations to Attorney General Schneiderman for an aggressive act that clearly establishes an assertive tone for his Office in protecting New Yorkers from polluters.”
This action names both the current owner of Homer City Station – a consortium of eight limited liability companies (Homer City OL1-OL8 LLC) – and its operator (EME Homer City Generation L.P.). Also named are two companies that owned the plant when, or since, it was modified and increased air pollution, including Pennsylvania Electric Company and New York State Electric & Gas Corporation.
New York and PADEP are jointly prosecuting the case with federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has filed a lawsuit today against the plant for CAA violations. The states have filed a motion to intervene in EPA’s case, which would ensure that the cases are litigated together before the same judge. The Act provides that states may intervene in a case brought by EPA seeking to enforce pollution controls. The action will be taken in United State District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Susan von Reusner and Affirmative Litigation Section Chief Michael Myers of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau.