West Va. Power Plant Named In Acid Rain Lawsuit

Attorney General Spitzer today announced a lawsuit against the Virginia Electric and Power Company for violations of the federal Clean Air Act at one of the company's massive coal burning power plants.

Emissions from the Mount Storm power plant in West Virginia drift hundreds of miles on prevailing winds and have been linked to acid rain and smog problems that plague New York.

"The Mount Storm plant is a major source of air pollution," Spitzer said. "The operators of the plant have made extensive upgrades in capacity without correspoinding improvements in emissions control. This lawsuit, like those previously filed, seeks to compel changes that will reduce acid rain, smog and asthma in New York and help secure a cleaner environment for future generations."

The Mount Storm power plant -- built in 1965 -- has undergone some $35 million in major upgrades in recent years designed to extend its useable life and increase its ability to produce power. These improvements include extensive renovations of boilers and increasing the height of the plant's smokestack to 730 feet, sending its emissions higher into the atmosphere and exacerbating the spread of pollutants.

Spitzer's lawsuit -- filed in federal court in New York City -- cites a specific provision of the Clean Air Act that power plants undergoing major modifications must comply with the same stringent pollution controls required of new plants. The utility is also required to comply with "Best Available Control Technology" requirements. Virginia Electric Power Company has violated these key provisions of the federal law and therefore is subject to legal action.

Rather than suing the state of West Virginia or the federal government over damaging air pollution from a distant state, Spitzer is targeting the power plant directly. His lawsuit seeks to permanently require the Mount Storm plant to comply with the Clean Air Act and also seeks civil penalties for each violation of the law at the plant.

This lawsuit follows a series of similar suits filed in the fall of 1999 against 13 coal burning power plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. Those lawsuits are currently pending in federal courts in Ohio and Indiana.

In additions, acting in concert with Gov. George Pataki and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Attorney General's office is pursuing Clean Air Act violations against eight New York coal-burning power plants.

The legal action against the Mount Storm power plant is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Rachel Zaffrann and Lemuel Srolovic of the Environmental Protection Bureau under the direction of bureau chief Peter Lehner.