ELPC’s Chicago Eco-Office Receives LEED Platinum Certification
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CHICAGO (AP) — The Illinois Pollution Control Board agreed Thursday to give a Texas company extra time to install pollution controls at five Illinois coal-fired power plants, saying it would be an economic hardship for the company to do it sooner.
The panel voted 3-1 to grant a pollution-control waiver to Houston-based Dynegy Inc., which still must acquire the plants from Ameren Corp., but said it would be several hours before the opinion was available to the public. Chairwoman Deanna Glosser cast the only dissenting vote, saying she did not believe the company demonstrated an economic hardship.
Environmental groups opposed the waiver, saying the delay would hurt public health and the Dynegy knew the pollution controls were needed when it agreed to acquire the plants.
LUDINGTON, MICH. — The Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency agreed to enter a revised consent agreement with a ferry operator that would stop the nation’s last coal-fired ferryboat from dumping waste ash into Lake Michigan prior to the start of the 2015 sailing season.
Lake Michigan Carferry, operator of the S.S. Badger, wants to install an ash retention system aboard the ship that hauls passengers, vehicles and cargo between its home port of Ludington, Mich., and Manitowoc, Wis., from May to October. Currently, ash from its boilers is mixed with water and piped overboard. More than 500 tons of ash is released during a typical season.
The consent deal also calls for a reduction in the amount of ash discharged this year and over the five-month 2014 sailing season.
“The revised consent decree has been strengthened based on public comments on the proposed consent decree that was lodged in March,” said Susan Hedman, EPA Region 5 administrator. “These revisions increase certainty that the S.S. Badger will stop discharging coal ash to Lake Michigan at the end of the 2014 sailing season.”
The ship is the last remnant of the once-thriving carferry industry in Ludington, northwest of Grand Rapids. It offers a four-hour cruise across 60 miles of open water, an alternative to driving between Michigan and Wisconsin by way of crowded Chicago.
“The consent decree process has been extensive and has taken much longer than we had hoped,” Lake Michigan Carferry chief Bob Manglitz said in a statement. “This action is a huge milestone on the long road we have been traveling to keep the Badger sailing.”
The Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center said Friday that the revisions improve the consent deal, but the environmental group wants to make sure Lake Michigan Carferry gets no extensions beyond the 2014 sailing season.
“These improvements are steps in the right direction, but it’s time to require a complete end to the S.S. Badger’s dumping of toxic coal ash pollution in Lake Michigan,” the group’s executive director, Howard Learner, said in a release. “Enough is enough. Let’s protect our Great Lakes.”
More stories on the revised S.S. Badger consent decree:
The Waukegan coal plant is polluting Lake Michigan, harming both people and aquatic life. Learn how ELPC and Sierra Club are working to strengthen the plant’s water pollution permit and how you can engage in the public decisionmaking process. Listen now.
On March 20, 2013, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court ruled in ELPC’s favor by lifting a stay and allowing the Illinois Pollution Control Board to consider ELPC’s environmental enforcement complaint involving groundwater pollution at a number of Midwest Generation’s coal plants in Illinois.
In lifting the stay, the court held that ELPC has standing in the Bankruptcy Court proceeding — an important case that will impact 9 old, highly polluting coal plants in Northern Illinois as Midwest Generation and Edison Mission Energy plan to file their Master Restructuring Agreement with the Bankruptcy Court in May 2013.
ELPC Senior Attorney Faith Bugel was counsel for several of the Citizen Groups in a suit that lead to a settlement, announced today, requiring American Electric Power (AEP) to shutter three coal plants in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio by 2015 as well as bring more clean energy online to meet the region’s electricity needs. The suit included a coalition of 13 citizen groups (11 of which were represented by ELPC), 8 states, and the U.S. EPA.
COLUMBUS, OHIO – Today a coalition of citizen groups, states and U.S. EPA announced a landmark settlement agreement with American Electric Power (AEP) requiring AEP to stop burning coal by 2015 at three power plants in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. AEP also agreed to replace a portion of these coal plants with new wind and solar investments in Indiana and Michigan, bringing more clean energy on line to meet the region’s electricity needs.
AEP will stop burning coal at the Tanners Creek Generating Station Unit 4 in Indiana, the Muskingum River Power Plant Unit 5 in Ohio, and the Big Sandy Power Plant Unit 2 in Kentucky. Collectively, a total of 2,011 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired power will retire as part of the settlement, removing almost 12 million tons of climate-disrupting carbon pollution and nearly 84,000 tons of sulfur dioxide pollution that the three coal-fired power plants spew into the air each year.
“Today’s agreement will protect public health, reduce the threat of climate disruption, and create a cleaner environment for families in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky,” said Jodi Perras, Indiana Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “Across the country, the coal industry faces unprecedented setbacks as its share of electricity generation plummets and the cost of coal continues to skyrocket. This agreement is only the latest sign of progress as our country continues to transition away from dirty, dangerous, and expensive coal-fired power plants.”
Today’s settlement comes in a lawsuit originally filed in a federal court in Ohio in 1999, and is a modification to a prior 2007 settlement . Other parties in the suit include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; eight states including New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey; and 13 citizens groups including the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ohio Citizen Action, Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, and the Hoosier Environmental Council.
Coal-fired power plants are the nation’s largest source of mercury, sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution, carbon pollution and many other deadly pollutants that can trigger heart attacks and contribute to respiratory problems. According to estimates from the Clean Air Task Force, 203 deaths, 310 heart attacks, 3,160 asthma attacks, and 188 emergency room visits per year will be averted once the Muskingum River, Tanners Creek and Big Sandy power plants stop burning coal.
“Tanners Creek, Big Sandy, and Muskingum River are dirty and outdated plants that should have been cleaned up or retired decades ago,” said Shannon Fisk, an attorney with Earthjustice who was co-counsel for Sierra Club on this matter. “We’re glad AEP is going to retire these aging dinosaurs, and urge the company to ensure an equitable transition for the workers and communities most directly impacted by these retirements.”
“This agreement will not only cut pollution, it will fund the long term benefits of mitigation efforts that further clean our air and environment,” said Faith Bugel, Senior Clean Air Attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, counsel for eleven of the Citizen Groups.
Under today’s settlement AEP agreed to install pollution-curbing dry sorbent injection (DSI) technology on its massive Rockport coal-fired power plant in Southern Indiana. The 2007 agreement had required AEP to install flue gas desulfurization (FGD) technology at the plant — a more expensive technology that results in greater pollution reductions — but Sierra Club and the other parties agreed to the DSI technology in return for an earlier installation date, the other coal plant retirements, and clean energy investments. AEP will also be required to either retire the two Rockport units in 2025 and 2028, respectively, or to install additional controls designed to achieve removal of at least 98 percent of the sulfur dioxide created by the burning of coal at those units.
Additionally, the agreement commits AEP to developing 50 MW of wind or solar power this year and an additional 150 MW of wind or solar power in Indiana or Michigan by 2015. AEP also agreed to invest $2.5 million to improve air quality in Indiana through various measures including retrofitting outdoor wood boilers, investing in distributed renewable generation, and land acquisition.
“Across the Midwest and the Great Plains, in states like Iowa and South Dakota that already get 20 percent of their energy from wind sources, clean energy is powering homes, putting people back to work, and protecting families from dangerous and expensive coal-fired power plants,” said Kerwin Olson, Executive Director of Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana. “Indiana has one of the fastest growing wind industries in the nation and is creating thousands of local jobs. This settlement builds on that success and will only accelerate Indiana’s and our nation’s responsible transition to an economy powered by clean, renewable, affordable sources of energy.”
“With enormous potential for jobs in clean energy and energy efficiency, it is critical that AEP use the next three years to invest in affordable clean energy projects and transition workers into new careers,” said Jesse Kharbanda, Executive Director of the Hoosier Environmental Council. “By replacing decades-old coal plants with homegrown, clean and affordable energy sources, AEP can do right by affected workers and their families, and continue clean energy job creation across Indiana and Ohio.”
The other citizens groups involved in the AEP settlement are the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Environmental Council, Clean Air Council, Environment America, National Wildlife Federation, League of Ohio Sportsmen, Izaak Walton League, and the Indiana Wildlife Federation. The above-mentioned groups are all represented by the Environmental Law and Policy Center.
The retirements of the Tanners Creek Generating Station in Indiana, the Muskingum River Power Plant and the Big Sandy Power Plant in Kentucky represent the 140th, 141st, and 142nd coal plants to retire or announce their retirement since 2010. Since January 2010, more than 50,000 megawatts of coal-fired power have been retired or committed for retirement nationwide.
ELPC successfully held off two proposed new coal plants in Kentucky — Cash Creek and Kentucky Synpgas — on behalf of our clients at Sierra Club Kentucky and Valley Watch. We petitioned the U.S. EPA to object to the proposed plants’ permits, which were issued by Kentucky’s state environmental agency despite clear violations of Clean Air Act standards. The U.S. EPA agreed with our petitions and sent the permits back to the drawing board in 2012.
In response, Cash Creek changed its plans – it will no longer use coal, generate slag or create fugitive emissions from a number of sources — and was issued a new permit in November 2012 to be a cleaner, natural gas combined cycle plant.
Kentucky Syngas never revised its plans in response to EPA’s objections and is therefore delayed indefinitely.
Since ELPC’s founding in 1993, we have held off, shut down or cleaned up 14 coal plants around the Midwest. Learn more.
Aging Coal Plants, Coal Prices Send Big Independent Power Producer into Bankruptcy
Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter
Published:Tuesday, December 18, 20112
One of nation’s largest unregulated utility holding companies, Edison Mission Energy, yesterday filed for Chapter 11 protection under the Bankruptcy Code, saying it would seek to restructure an estimated $5 billion in debt from creditors.
Santa Ana, Calif.-based Edison Mission and 16 affiliated firms filed a bankruptcy petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Executives said operations at the company’s “electric facilities across the country will continue to generate power safely and reliably, and it will continue to focus on its marketing and trading operations.”
Edison Mission Energy owns or has leasing stakes in 43 power plants around the country, including roughly 10,300 megawatts within the company’s pro rata share.
Among the firm’s major holdings are Chicago-based Midwest Generation, which operates four coal-fired power plants inIllinois, and Edison Mission Operation & Maintenance Inc. (EMOMI), which operates eight natural gas power plants inCaliforniaand a waste coal plant inWest Virginia. EMOMI was not among the subsidiaries included in the bankruptcy petition.
The company also owns a large coal plant in Homer City, Pa., as well as a biomass power plant inNew York. It is also a major investor inU.S.wind energy, with projects in operation or under construction inIllinois,Iowa,Minnesota,Nebraska,New Mexico,Oklahoma,Pennsylvania,Texas,UtahandWyoming.
Among Edison Mission’s largest creditors are Commonwealth Edison, with a $19.2 million stake in the company, and Wells Fargo Bank.
The company’s coal-fired power plants have been especially hard hit by the economic and regulatory shifts around coal, and earlier last year, Midwest Generation announced the closure of two older coal-fired plants in the city ofChicago.
“Like other independent power generators, [Edison Mission Energy] has been challenged by depressed energy and capacity prices and high fuel costs affecting its coal-fired facilities, combined with pending debt maturities and the need to retrofit its coal-fired facilities to comply with environmental regulations,” the company said in a statement.
‘Deeply challenged’ by market
In November, Edison Mission CEO Ted Craver warned investors that the company had been “deeply challenged” by low margins in its merchant power portfolio. He predicted then that the company would not be able to make a $97 million interest payment on bonds that it owned by Nov. 15 (Greenwire, Nov. 2). A 30-day grace period to make that payment expired this week, triggering yesterday’s filing of voluntary bankruptcy petitions.
Edison Mission’s agreement with Commonwealth Edison and other holders of an estimated $3.7 billion in debt is subject to court approval.
Pedro Pizarro, EME’s president, said in a statement yesterday that the court filings were “an important first step in the process to reduce our debt, enhance our liquidity profile and position EME for continued operation and future success while preserving our ability to generate power safely and reliably at our electric facilities across the country.”
The Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, which has long pressed Midwest Generation to clean up or retire its older coal-fired power plants in Illinois, said the company’s difficulties are an outgrowth of decades of management that allowed wholesale electricity profits to flow to shareholders rather than invest in building a clean power plant fleet for the 21st century.
The company’s pain became even more acute asIllinoisshifted from a regulated to a competitive electricity market and wholesale electricity prices dropped.
“When Midwest Generation was profiting while wholesale electricity market prices were high, it sent dividends to its parent company inCalifornia; now, while wholesale market prices are low, the California-based parent has not supported Midwest Generation and has helped to trigger the bankruptcy,” ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said in a statement.
Learner said his organization will continue to press a restructured Edison Mission to address its aging power plant fleet “to make sure that if these old, highly polluting coal plants continue to operate, that they are cleaned up with the installation of modern pollution control equipment.”
Ill. pollution agency enforcement action bolsters enviros
Manuel Quinones, E&E reporter
The Illinois Pollution Control Board ruled last week that a coal mine in the state is liable for more than 600 water pollution violations.
Advocates say the legal action against Springfield Coal Co. LLC and the Industry Mine’s previous owner, Freeman United Coal Mining Co. LLC, is a watershed moment for enforcement in the state, where coal mining is enjoying a renaissance thanks to market conditions.
“We believe there is a strong case for a significant fine in this case,” said Traci Barkley, a water scientist with the Prairie Rivers Network. “For eight years, this mine sent its pollution into the public waterways with no regard for the impacts they could have on the people of Illinois and our environment.”
The Illinois board said the Industry Mine, located in the west-central part of the state, dumped contaminants, including manganese, into a waterway that feeds into the Illinois River in violation of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit between 2004 and 2011. It faces a $64 million fine, although advocacy groups say regulators have rarely imposed penalties above $100,000.
“This is unfortunately the tip of the iceberg,” Howard Learner, Environmental Law and Policy Center executive director, said in an interview. “What we have seen is an excessive amount of clean water violations. There’s not a real dispute on the facts.”
A Springfield Coal executive told the Peoria Journal Star in 2010 that the Industry Mine was following the rules. “We have been working with the [Illinois EPA] to make sure we’re in compliance with the current permits,” he said.
And the companies argued against environmentalists’ requests for summary judgment in the case. The Pollution Control Board wrote in its opinion summary that “both Springfield Coal and Freeman United rely on supplementary documents, regulations, and doctrines to allege that material facts are disputed in order to negate their liability for the NPDES permit violations.”
However, the document also said, “Considering the pleadings as it must, strictly against ELPC, the Board concludes that there is no genuine issue of material fact with regard to the issue of NPDES permit violations.”
Learner said, “This is a big step for the Illinois Pollution Control Board to finally say enough is enough.” He added, “We believe that the penalty should be set high enough that it sends the right economic signals to the mine operators.”
Groups in other states have announced similar milestones in their quest to secure higher penalties from coal companies. In October, for example, Kentucky environmentalists reached a $575,000 agreement with an Arch Coal Inc. subsidiary after months of negotiations (E&ENews PM, Oct. 5).
And in Pennsylvania, two environmental groups are threatening to sue a major coal company they accuse of hundreds of water pollution violations in the southeastern part of the state, mirroring similar efforts elsewhere in Appalachia (Greenwire, Nov. 12).
“In order to do these cases,” said Learner, “you need an experienced attorney in clean water law. And you need a scientist or someone who can go through the data.”
Learner’s Law and Policy Center said his group has other pending actions and is “prepared to act.” He said, “We are going to be taking this enforcement principle to other mines in Illinois and Indiana and around the Midwest. Any mine owner who is complying with their Clean Water Act permit has nothing to fear.”
CHICAGO – The Illinois Pollution Control Board has ruled that Springfield Coal Company’s Industry Mine in McDonough and Schuyler Counties violated its water permit 624 times between 2004 and 2011.
In a ruling released Friday, the Board found violations for pollutants including sulfates, iron, manganese, pH and total suspended and settled solids that were recorded at 16 of 17 outflow points. The pollutants were released into tributaries of Grindstone Creek, which flows into the LaMoine River. The LaMoine River flows into the Illinois River.
“The extreme number of pollution violations at this mine shows the need for strong enforcement of clean water standards to protect the public,” said Howard A. Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The Board should impose a large enough fine to send the right economic signals for this mine company to stop polluting our waterways.”
The maximum penalty facing Springfield Coal Company, and its predecessor, Freeman United Coal Mining Company, is $64 million. However, the Board has rarely imposed fines greater than $100,000.
In 2009, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Prairie Rivers Network and Sierra Club notified the state of their intent to sue over permit violations. In response, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office filed a suit before the Pollution Control Board. The groups intervened in that case and presented their review of mine data, which showed the 624 violations.
“Engaged citizens saw what was going on and knew they had to take action,” said Jack Darin, director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We commend the Attorney General’s Office for taking up this case, and the Pollution Control Board for its thorough review of the data. This is a case where the system worked and it shows just how important it is to remain involved.”
Traci Barkley, Water Resource Scientist for Prairie Rivers Network, believes this could be a landmark case in upholding clean water standards in Illinois and hopes mine operators work to improve their pollution control efforts.
“We believe there is a strong case for a significant fine in this case,” Barkley said. “For eight years, this mine sent its pollution into the public waterways with no regard for the impacts they could have on the people of Illinois and our environment. This operator is also seeking permits to open two new strip mines in west-central Illinois, one draining to Canton’s public water supply. Our public waterways need strong protection from chronic violators. ”
Kim Sedgwick, a Macomb resident who has fought to protect the natural areas of McDonough and Schuyler Counties, said the news was a needed step forward.
“What has taken place along Grindstone Creek and surrounding sediment ponds these past few decades in McDonough County is unspeakable. We all agree that justice must be done, and fines are to be paid,” Sedgwick said. “This is a monumental step toward monitoring mining companies in our state.”