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Post date: June 11 2003

Hudson Valley Coal Plant To Make Air Pollution Cuts

New York Attorney General Spitzer and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin M. Crotty today announced a landmark settlement that will result in major air pollution cuts at the Lovett coal-fired power plant in the Hudson Valley and improve air quality throughout the region.

The agreement marks the first time a state, acting entirely on its own, has settled a New Source Review/Prevention of Significant Deterioration enforcement lawsuit with a power plant operating within its borders.

Attorney General Spitzer said: "As we pursue Clean Air violations by power plants operating outside New York, it is imperative that we address violations by in-state plants. This agreement, which we hope will be a model for settlement of other in-state cases, demonstrates the strength of our case, the state’s willingness to pursue violations on its own and our commitment to dealing fairly and evenly with all power plant operators."

DEC Commissioner Erin M. Crotty said: "This settlement is the first of its kind in New York State, and once again demonstrates our national leadership on clean air issues. Under this historic enforcement action, state-of-the-art pollution control devices will be installed at the Lovett power plant, improving air quality and reducing emissions that harm public health and our environment. This is a landmark case in our efforts to improve air quality, and we will continue to pursue similar actions to protect the health of citizens and natural resources across the State."

Mark Lynch, President of Mirant’s northeast business unit said: "This agreement provides Mirant with greater certainty in managing current and future environmental requirements in New York. It also affirms our long-standing commitment to the environment. With the agreement in place, Mirant can invest in the environmental technology needed to help improve the air quality in New York."

Under the settlement, the plant’s current owner, Mirant New York, Inc. a subsidiary of Mirant Corp., based in Atlanta, Georgia., will install new equipment that will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by at least 75 percent from the current permitted emission rate and reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by at least 40 percent from the current permitted emission rate. The air pollution cuts will take place by 2008. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide are linked to acid rain, smog, asthma and other respiratory diseases. Mirant also has the option of achieving equal or greater air pollution reductions by switching from coal to natural gas.

The agreement requires the former owner of the facility, Orange and Rockland Power Co., to pay a $600,000 penalty and an additional $800,000 to fund energy conservation and clean renewable energy projects in the lower Hudson Valley.

In May 2000, the state initiated enforcement actions against Orange and Rockland and three other utilities operating eight power plants in New York State for violating the Clean Air Act. Under the New Source Review/Prevention of Significant Deterioration provisions of the Clean Air Act, when a power plant makes major modifications to its electric generating units it must install "best available control technology" to reduce emissions of harmful pollutants.

At the Lovett plant, the State charged that Orange and Rockland violated the federal Clean Air Act by making major modifications to the coal plant without also installing "best available control technology," as federal law requires. Orange and Rockland sold the plant in 1999. As the current owner, Mirant has the responsibility to install the enhanced pollution controls.

Older power plants were exempted from having to comply with the stricter air pollution standards under the Clean Air Act unless the plants instituted major modifications or physical changes that would increase emissions. This "grandfathering" provision was based on the assumption that these plants would be closed in the near future and replaced by cleaner power plants. However, some companies have modified power generating units that extend the life of their plants, claiming that the modifications are routine maintenance and therefore exempt from the stricter permitting and upgrade requirements. In this case, the State disputed the claims and brought an enforcement action to require proper permits and the installation of modern pollution controls.

This settlement is part of a nationwide clean air initiative triggered by Spitzer in September 1999 to enforce the New Source Review provision of the federal Clean Air Act. Spitzer and the EPA reached a similar settlement with a Virginia utility on April 21, 2003. New York has Clean Air Act enforcement actions pending against 22 other coal-fired power plants in New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and Indiana.

New York State issued the toughest acid rain controls in the nation on April 17, 2003. Under these controls, nitrogen oxide emissions ultimately would be reduced by approximately 20,000 tons per year and sulfur dioxide emissions by 130,000 tons annually, which is 50 percent below the levels allowed under the Clean Air Act’s Acid Rain Program requirements. The nitrogen oxide regulations take effect on October 1, 2004, and the sulfur dioxide reductions will be phased in over a three-year period, beginning in January 2005.

The settlement will be available for public review on the Attorney General’s website at www.ag.ny.gov or at the Attorney General’s regional office in White Plains or the DEC Regional Office in New Paltz. It will also be at DEC at 625 Broadway in Albany, New York.

The Lovett power plant case was handled in the Attorney General’s Office by Assistant Attorney General J. Jared Snyder, Chief Scientist Peter N. Skinner and Bureau Chief Peter H. Lehner. The case was handled by DEC’s Charles Sullivan in the Division of Environmental Enforcement and Don Spencer and Randall Orr, in the Division of Air Resources.

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