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Post date: May 20 2004

States To Sue West Virginia Coal Plants

New York Attorney General Spitzer today announced that New York and three other states will sue the owner of five coal-fired power plants in West Virginia for violating the Clean Air Act, after the federal government dropped its investigation of the power plants late last year.

A Notice of Intent to Sue letter was sent to Allegheny Energy, Inc. identifying Clean Air Act violations at five power plants in West Virginia owned by the company. States joining New York in the legal action include Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Allegheny Energy Inc. is based in Greensburg, PA.

An investigation undertaken by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that coal plants owned and operated by Allegheny Energy made major improvements without installing the legally required air pollution controls. As a result, they have continued to emit hundreds of thousands of tons more pollution each year.

In addition, the Notice of Intent to Sue letter identifies unpermitted modifications at three power plants in Pennsylvania, but the states have deferred joint action on those power plants since Pennsylvania has initiated its own investigation and is in discussions with Allegheny Energy regarding those violations.

The sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions cause smog, acid rain, respiratory disease and many other harms. Allegheny Energy Inc. is the fifth largest emitter of sulfur dioxide and the tenth largest emitter of nitrogen oxide in the nation.

After the federal government announced that EPA was dropping some 50 air pollution enforcement investigations, New York Attorney General Spitzer obtained the comprehensive files on these power plants. Today's action by the states ensures that years of investigatory work to advance environmental enforcement will be used to protect public health and the environment.

New York Attorney General Spitzer said: "Air pollution from coal-fired power plants is a serious threat to New York's environment and public health. It is disturbing that the federal government is no longer enforcing the Clean Air Act, and is in fact taking steps to sharply weaken it. New York and its partners will act if the federal government is unwilling to do so."

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said: "This company must be held accountable - just as we have done with other polluters - for stopping the steady stream of poison it spews daily into the air we breath. States like Connecticut must act aggressively to stop air contamination because of appalling, astonishing inaction by federal agencies. We have made progress in court victories, but even more must be done by this united band of states committed to protect our citizens against unlawful air contamination. This issue is a matter of life and death."

New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey said: "Faced with federal regulators at the EPA who have abdicated their responsibility to enforce the Clean Air Act, we will join with these other states to ensure that corporate polluters are not permitted to defy the law and profit at the expense of our environment and the health of our citizens."

New Jersey Environmental Commissioner Bradley Campbell said: "Once again, President Bush has failed the people of New Jersey and the Northeast by opting to protect the profits of polluters rather than the health of citizens and, once again, the states must fill the void left by the federal government."

Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty said: "Although Pennsylvania has acted independently by initiating its own investigation and discussions with Allegheny Energy regarding the three in-state plants, joining this broader suit emphasizes the importance of regional partnerships in achieving air quality improvements and ensuring fairness. Pennsylvania and others in the Northeast all too often are put at a competitive disadvantage by shouldering the burden of increased emissions from upwind states, especially in light of the unacceptable and unprecedented rollbacks at the federal level."

The air pollution violations underlying today's announcement have taken place over more than a decade at the following coal-fired power plants:

Size (MW)
2002 SO2 Emissions
(Tons per year)
2002 NOX Emissions
(Tons per year)
Ft. Martin
Willow Island
Willow Island
Willow Island

Today's letter serves as notice of the violations upon which a lawsuit under the Clean Air Act might be based if a resolution of the matter is not reached.

The Notice of Intent to Sue Letter is available on the New York Attorney General's website at

The case is being handled by New York Bureau Chief Peter Lehner, Assistant Attorneys General Jared Snyder and Jacob Hollinger, Connecticut Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Massicotte, New Jersey Assistant Attorney General Kevin Auerbacher, and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Assistant Counsel Robert Reiley.


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