MI Utility, Feds Settle on Coal Plants

Thursday, September 18, 2014 @ 02:09 PM gHale

Consumers Energy, a subsidiary of CMS Energy Corporation, will install pollution control technology, continue operating existing pollution controls and comply with emission rates to reduce harmful air pollution from the company’s five coal-fired power plants, said officials at the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The plants are in West Olive, Essexville, Muskegon and Luna Pier, Michigan. The settlement will resolve claims the company violated the Clean Air Act by modifying their facilities in a way that caused the release of excess sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

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EPA said the actions required by the settlement will reduce harmful emissions by 46,500 tons per year, which includes 38,400 tons per year of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and 8,100 tons per year of nitrogen oxide (NOx). The company said it will spend $1 billion to implement the required measures. The pollution reductions will come through the installation, upgrade, and operation of state-of-the-art pollution control devices designed to reduce emissions and protect public health. Consumers Energy will also take several coal-fired units offline and may repower additional coal-fired units with natural gas.

The settlement also requires the company pay a civil penalty of $2.75 million to resolve Clean Air Act violations and spend at least $7.7 million on environmental projects to help mitigate the harmful effects of air pollution on the environment and benefit local communities.

“Today’s settlement will bring cleaner air to residents in Michigan by removing tens of thousands of tons of harmful air pollution from the atmosphere,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Sam Hirsch of the DoJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This agreement will render benefits to communities far into the future with pollution-reduction projects that will improve public health and help restore natural resources downwind of the plants.”

“The required pollution controls and funding for mitigation projects will reduce harmful pollution in American communities,” said Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This case demonstrates that energy can be provided to local communities in a responsible way that significantly reduces sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide known to contribute to serious health concerns.”

The settlement requires the company install pollution control technology and implement other measures to reduce sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter emissions from its five coal-fired power plants, comprising 12 operating units. Among other requirements, the company must comply with declining system-wide limits for SO2 and NOx and meet emission rates. In addition, the company must retire or refuel two units to natural gas and retire an additional five units.

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