February 20, 2009

EPA Sues Louisiana Coal-Fired Power Plant to Install Required Pollution Controls, Seeks Civil Damages

EPA announced that it would be filing a lawsuit against Louisiana Generating, a subsidiary of NRG Energy for violations of the Clean Air Act. While not the greater move to regulate carbon emissions that many are hoping will come out of the EPA on Lisa Jackson’s watch, but nevertheless it’s a step in the right direction. Here are the details of the suit:

The EPA alleges that the Big Cajun 2 Power Plant which Louisiana Generating operates in New Roads, Louisiana did not have new pollution controls installed when the plant was renovated. For the past ten years the plant has been operating without the level of emissions controls to limit sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions as stipulated in the Clean Air Act. The lawsuit seeks to force Louisiana Generating to install the required pollution controls and seeks civil penalties “up to the maximum amount authorized by law.”

The Big Cajun 2 plant consists of three coal-fired steam units with a total capacity of 1700 MW and has been in operation since 1981.

We Need to Go Beyond Pollution Controls
While this is a positive step by the EPA, let’s not forget that even with those pollution controls in place coal is the largest source of electricity in the United States, responsible for about 70% of sulfur dioxide emissions in the country, as well as being one the prime factor in carbon dioxide emissions and accelerating global warming. No matter what you do to it, coal is dirty, when mined and when burned. It may be abundant, but if we want to prevent catastrophic global warming we need to do more than just make sure minimal pollution controls are in place, we need to phase out the burning of coal. Period.