Lawsuit demands company clean up its plants
The EPA said recent modifications did not include updated pollution controls.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pennsylvania and four other states are suing Allegheny Energy Inc. and its subsidiaries over alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act and state environmental regulations.
The company modified three western Pennsylvania coal-fired power plants without getting the required approval of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh.
The modifications were done to extend the life of the plants, but by circumventing the approval process, Allegheny Energy avoided having to install modern pollution controls, according to the lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey and New York.
"We are calling on Allegheny Energy to put in place equipment and operational changes that will enable its plants to perform in a manner that meets the highest standards for environmental protection," said Kathleen A. McGinty, Pennsylvania's secretary for environmental protection. "We hope Allegheny Energy will work with us expeditiously to clean up their plants and protect public health."
The Greensburg-based electric utility said it doesn't feel a lawsuit was necessary, given that it is working to resolve pending litigation in West Virginia that deals with the same issues. The company said it believes it is in compliance with state and federal regulations.
"We consider this new action unnecessary, given our pending lawsuit in West Virginia and our plans to reduce the absolute level of emissions at our power plants," said Paul J. Evanson, Allegheny Energy's chairman, president and chief executive officer. "We are moving forward as rapidly as our financial condition allows."
Modifications were done at the company's Hatfield's Ferry plant in Greene County, Armstrong plant in Armstrong County, and Mitchell plant in Washington County. Some of the modifications were made as far back as 1993, according to the suit.
In a statement, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said, "This aggressive action is necessary to protect our health because the federal government has unconscionably orphaned this case and abandoned environmental protection."
Investigations by the federal Environmental Protection Agency found power plants were making modifications without updating pollution controls, but the Bush administration dropped investigations and enforcement, according to Pennsylvania officials.
"The states are picking up where the federal government has left off in terms of enforcement," said Kurt Knauss, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection.
The EPA did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Last year, the states filed notices of intent to sue Allegheny Energy.
Knauss said discussions with Allegheny Energy were amicable, but that state officials felt progress was too slow in coming.
"In the face of clear violations of law, we need to move to a defined, enforceable schedule to get these facilities cleaned up," Knauss said. "That's what we hope to achieve by going to court."
The other states claim the plants contribute to acid rain and smog in their states.
"The allegation is that because these three power plants ... are opening without pollution controls, the air pollution coming out of these stacks drifts on the prevailing winds and comes into New York," said Marc Violette, a spokesman for New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
Allegheny Power, a subsidiary of Allegheny Energy, has about 1.8 million customers in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia and Ohio.