Cuomo Secures Record $9.5 Million From Nation's Largest Power Company To Reduce Pollution In New York State

NEW YORK, NY (April 8, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced he has secured $9.5 million for the State of New York as a result of a federal Clean Air Act settlement.  The funds, which will be used to fight air pollution throughout the state, come from a settlement that Attorney General Cuomo and others reached with American Electric Power (AEP), the nation’s largest power company.  The total funds represent the largest payment for environmental projects ever received from a New York State settlement under the Clean Air Act. 

“My office makes polluters pay the price for endangering New Yorkers’ health and environment, and in this case that includes paying a record $9.5 million to help us fight air pollution,” said Attorney General Cuomo.  “By investing this money in green power, energy efficiency, and pollution reduction projects across the State, we will be providing a tremendous boost to efforts that will improve the quality of the air that New Yorkers breathe.”

The Attorney General’s office will establish a public process for determining how the project money will be distributed.  Potential projects include supporting the construction of “green” buildings, installing solar and other renewable energy systems, purchasing clean-air school buses and other vehicles, and investing in energy efficiency and conservation programs.  Two distributions have already been specified: an initial disbursement of $500,000 will fund environmental improvement in the Lake Champlain basin, in cooperation with the State of Vermont; another initial payment of $500,000 will go toward reducing diesel pollution emissions from idling trucks at rest stops and weigh stations throughout Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties. 

In October 2007, a coalition of states and environmental groups, led by Attorney General Cuomo, and the federal government reached a settlement with AEP.  As a part of the settlement, AEP is required to pay the eight states involved a total of $24 million over the next 5 years for use in energy efficiency and air pollution reduction projects.  These eight states have agreed to allocate the settlement funds as follows: New York (receiving $9.5 million), Connecticut ($1.8m), Maryland ($1.2m), Massachusetts ($3.1m), New Hampshire ($1.2m), New Jersey ($4.2m), Rhode Island ($1.2m), and Vermont ($1.8m).

The funding announced today adds to the historic clean air benefits that resulted from the settlement Attorney General Cuomo and the others achieved with AEP in October 2007.  The settlement requires the company to invest nearly $5 billion to upgrade its “eastern fleet” of 16 power plants and cuts over 800,000 tons of air pollution yearly, which is the single greatest reduction of air pollution ever attained from a Clean Air Act enforcement action.  Air pollution emissions from these 16 power plants are a large contributor to smog and soot pollution in New York State.  These pollutants threaten human health and are linked to increases in asthma attacks and lung diseases.  They are also primary contributors to acid rain, which has severely damaged lakes, forests, and wildlife throughout New York’s Adirondack and Catskill regions.

“NYPIRG applauds Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for his leadership in securing cleaner air for all New Yorkers,” said Laura Haight, Senior Environmental Associate at the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).  “This historic settlement will result in air pollution reductions from AEP’s power plants up and down the East Coast, and a significant investment in clean energy and air quality initiatives here in New York.”

“Once again Attorney General Cuomo has shown his commitment to clean air and to the public through aggressive efforts to ensure that power plants pay for polluting New York’s air,” said Michael Seilback, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for the American Lung Association of New York State.  “This agreement will fund vital projects here in New York which will help provide cleaner air for us all to breathe.”

“Environmental Advocates of New York applauds Attorney General Cuomo for forcing American Electric Power (AEP) to clean up its act,” said David Gahl, policy director of Environmental Advocates of New York.  “Pollution emitted from AEP’s eastern plants is part of the reason why 30 counties in New York State fail to meet federal air quality standards.  New monies for air quality projects around the state should help New Yorkers breathe easier.”

Under the settlement, AEP was also required to pay $75 million for penalties and environmental projects, including: $15 million for civil penalties; $36 million for various environmental improvement projects; and the $24 million announced today, which has been divided up among the eight states to fund energy efficiency and air pollution reduction projects.