US Sues Electric Utilities for Clean Air Act Violations

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, November 3, 1999

Group Touts Federal Action Against Dirty, Coal-Burning Plants

Utilities Boosted Production and Pollution In Violation of Air Laws

Cheating by Plants Targeted by DoJ Produced Smog Equal to 6.8 Million Cars From 1992-1998

Click here for the list of plants

WASHINGTON-The Environmental Working Group, the first organization to quantify the utilities' cheating on key air pollution requirements, today applauded the Department of Justice announcement of action on some of these polluting facilities. These 363 older, dirty utility generating plants are exempt from key air pollution standards under the decades-old agreement that they do not upgrade or retrofit plant boilers that pre-date the 1977 Clean Air Act Amendments.

Under this agreement, utilities were not allowed to increase their ability to pollute without losing their exemption. Many have done just that, registering upgrades to their plants -- and resulting increases in pollution -- as "routine maintenance" instead of the wholesale equipment upgrades that they have actually performed.

"They cheated, and in the process they created a public health problem that average Americans pay for with their health and pocketbooks while the utilities get off the hook," said Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyst John Coequyt.

EWG calculates that the cheating by the utilities targeted by the Justice Department collectively produced smog equal to that from 6.8 million cars in 1998 as a result of increased power generation since 1992.

Twenty years ago, many of the nation's utilities lobbied Congress to have their oldest, dirtiest plants exempt from key Clean Air Act standards on the premise that these facilities would soon be closed. Most never were, and the utilities' lobbyists have worked fiercely for decades to keep these exemptions. When Congress deregulated wholesale electricity sales in 1992, these old plants became even more profitable because they were competing with newer plants that had to install pollution control equipment.

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