Illinois Power Company Charged with Emissions Doing 'Serious Harm'

The United States and the state of Illinois have filed a civil complaint against Midwest Generation LLC, alleging that the company violated, and continues to violate, the Clean Air Act, announced the Justice Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Illinois Attorney General's office.

The complaint alleges that Midwest Generation made major modifications to its coal-fired power plants in Illinois without also installing and operating required pollution control equipment. As a result, the company's six Illinois power plants, which have a combined capacity of more than 6,000 megawatts, are illegally emitting massive amounts of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and particulate matter, said DOJ. The complaint also alleges that emissions from Midwest Generation violated opacity and particulate matter limits.

The lawsuit, filed by DOJ on behalf of EPA and the state of Illinois Attorney General's Office, asks the court to order Midwest Generation to install and operate state-of-the-art air pollution control technology to substantially reduce emissions from the company's power plants. The United States and the state of Illinois also seek civil penalties up to the maximum amount authorized by law, as well as actions by Midwest Generation to mitigate the adverse public health and environmental effects caused by the violations.

"The excess illegal emissions resulting from the violations alleged in the complaint are sufficient to cause serious harm to human health and the environment," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division. EPA Region 5 Acting Administrator Bharat Mathur added, "EPA's first priority is to protect the health of the people who live near these six plants and are most exposed to their pollution."

DOJ noted that coal-fired power plants collectively produce more pollution than any other source in the United States. Emissions from coal-fired power plants cause detrimental health effects, including heart attacks, respiratory disease and premature mortality, the agency said, adding that to combat these adverse effects, it and EPA are pursuing a national initiative, targeting electric utilities whose coal-fired power plants violate the law. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

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