Press Release

Press Release: Groups Push Back on Dynegy’s Latest Request for More Time to Pollute

July 22, 2015

Environmental, Public Health Groups Push Back on Dynegy’s Latest Request for More Time to Pollute
Dynegy Putting Off Pollution Cleanup Despite Record Profits

CHICAGO – A Dynegy proposal to allow tens of thousands of tons of dangerous air pollution while bringing millions in profits to the Houston-based coal plant operator would lead to hundreds of millions in health care costs in Illinois and neighboring states, according to a filing made late Tuesday at the Illinois Pollution Control Board by a coalition of public health and environmental groups.

In April, Dynegy asked the Illinois Pollution Control Board for a variance allowing the company to sell sulfur dioxide pollution credits it has received under a federal air pollution prevention program. Dynegy estimates the sale of the credits, which would allow the continued release of more than 60,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, would bring the company $3 million in profits. The groups called this an attempt by Dynegy to undermine Illinois’ Multi-Pollutant Standard, a state law established in 2006 to protect public health. The Multi-Pollutant Standard protects the pollution reductions from being undone by prohibiting the trading of pollution credits, though Dynegy now wants out of these commitments.

Sulfur dioxide is a dangerous pollutant that has been tied to costly health impacts including asthma attacks, emphysema, heart disease and premature death. In fact, using a metric developed by the National Research Council in a 2010 report, the health damages of 60,000 tons of sulfur dioxide from coal-fired power plants would amount to more than $400 million.

“The idea that Dynegy would be allowed to cause hundreds of millions of dollars in health costs for $3 million in profits defies the law and defies logic,” said Jennifer Cassel, an attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Holly Bender, Deputy Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, pointed out that Dynegy’s request to boost profits at the expense of the public comes on the heels of recent windfall the company received in June when the price for its power jumped about 900 percent, from $16.75 per megawatt-day to $150.00 per megawatt-day. The Illinois Attorney General’s office is looking into the results of that power auction.

“Since arriving in Illinois in 2013, Dynegy has repeatedly gone to the Illinois Pollution Control Board to get out of its commitments to reduce its pollution. Make no mistake, this wealthy energy company does not need another subsidy from Illinois in the form of special treatment under the law,” Bender said. “As the company rakes in profits, it wants to squeeze a few more dollars out of Illinois while families of children with asthma pick up the costs. It’s time to get serious about cleaning up Illinois’ communities.”

Brian P. Urbaszewski, Director, Environmental Health Programs with Respiratory Health Association said the Illinois Pollution Control Board should dismiss Dynegy’s request. “Over a million Illinois residents live with lung disease. Adding 60,000 tons of pollution to the air, as Dynegy wants, would only burden those families with added doctor appointments, higher medical bills, more hospital visits and avoidable premature deaths,” Urbaszewski said . “The board needs to protect these families, not pad Dynegy’s profits.”

Ann Alexander, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) noted, “Dynegy made a deal. It knew what it was getting itself into when it made that business decision. It should not now be allowed to back out because the deal has become inconvenient.”

Click to view comments filed by the groups to the Illinois Pollution Control Board.