This just in: rare good news for Indiana environment - a ruling that will be significant plus for Hoosiers' health:
(Indianapolis, Ind.) The U.S. Department of Justice and Duke Energy today lodged a Consent Decree that will result in a 86 percent reduction of sulfur dioxide pollution (SO2) from Duke's Gallagher Power Plant located in New Albany. The Hoosier Environmental Council, Ohio Environmental Council, and the States of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut also signed the Consent Decree, which resolves all of the federal government's claims against Duke Energy for violations of the New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act at the Gallagher plant.
To reduce Gallagher's emissions, Duke will either retire two of the four units at the plant, or convert them to natural gas fuel, by 2012. Duke also agreed to install pollution controls on the other two units, as well as burn lower sulfur coal. Duke will surrender SO2 "allowances," which are purchased rights to emit air pollution, equal to the total tons of SO2 emitted between May 19, 2009 (the date of the jury verdict) and the date the units are either retired or converted.
In addition to the pollution reductions, Duke agreed to pay $6.25 million for environmental mitigation projects and a civil penalty of $1.75 million. $250,000 of the mitigation funds will be paid to the U.S. Forest Service for restoration of forest lands allegedly injured by the power plant's emissions. $5 million in mitigation funds may be used by Duke to acquire or restore ecologically significant areas in Indiana or several downwind states, reduce emissions from its vehicle fleet by switching to hybrid or electric powered trucks and cars, or to upgrade Duke's existing hydroelectric generating facility at the Markland Dam on the Ohio River. HEC will have the opportunity to review any mitigation projects proposed by Duke before they are implemented. The balance of $1 million will be used for projects chosen by the three states.
The Consent Decree is the final stage in a legal battle involving the Gallagher plant filed by a coalition of plaintiffs including U.S. EPA, HEC, OEC and the states noted above. A jury in May 2009 found that the company broke the law when it made major unpermitted changes to the plant several years ago.
"This is a great outcome for citizens' health, both in Indiana and in the states downwind," said Tim Maloney of the Hoosier Environmental Council. "Not only will the offending units be retired or converted to cleaner burning natural gas, the two other polluting units at the plant must also substantially reduce their emissions."
The U.S. EPA estimates that 35,000 tons a year of SO2 from the Gallagher plant will be kept out of the Ohio River valley's skies once the decree is fully implemented by 2012. In 2006, the Gallagher plant emitted more sulfur dioxide pollution per unit of energy produced than any other power plant in the country. Small particulates linked with SO2 emissions cause decreased lung function, increased prevalence of respiratory symptoms, worsened respiratory infections, heart attacks, and the risk of early death.
Ann Weeks, Senior Counsel for Clean Air Task Force, a non-profit law and policy organization which represented, along with Indiana attorney Keith Guthrie, the Hoosier Environmental Council and the Ohio Environmental Council, said, "We are very glad that those downwind from the Gallagher plant will experience cleaner air in the very near future as the result of this agreement."
Other Cinergy power plants (Duke's predecessor) were also involved in the original EPA action. Duke Energy's Wabash River generating station near Terre Haute was found liable in the same proceeding for violating the Clean Air Act, and was ordered earlier this year by U.S. District Court Judge Larry McKinney to retire three of the plant's coal-burning units by September 30, 2009.