American Electric Power, the nation’s largest power generator, has agreed to cut polluting emissions from 16 of its coal-fired power plants.
Among the emissions to be cut include sulfur compounds that can create acid rain, which has, in effect, sterilized some water bodies in the Adirondacks.
The agreement, announced in New York by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, is a revision of an earlier agreement that will now require deeper, quicker cuts in emissions of pollution and provide additional funds for anti-pollution efforts.
New York and seven other states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and several environmental groups reached the agreement, which requires AEP to pursue greater reductions in sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions, accelerates the timeline for achieving those reductions, and increases the funding AEP will pay New York by an additional $715,000 to fund projects that improve environmental and public health in the state.
"Coal-fired power plants make the largest contribution to air pollution in New York’s skies,” said Schneiderman. “Continuing to cut pollution is crucial to protecting New Yorkers’ health and the environment.
“I will continue to use the full force of this office to fight for clean and healthy air for all New Yorkers,” he said.
The new agreement amends a settlement the coalition of states, EPA and the environmental groups reached with AEP in 2007 as a result of the company’s violations of pollution control provisions of the federal Clean Air Act. That settlement required the company to invest nearly $5 billion to upgrade its aging, coal-fired eastern fleet plants and cut their sulfur dioxide (SO2) air pollution from 828,000 tons to 174,000 tons a year over twelve years. In addition, the company was required to pay the eight states involved a total of $24 million, with New York receiving $9.5 million.
Last year, AEP initiated discussions about amending the settlement so the company could deploy pollution reduction technology at its Rockport, Indiana plant that was not explicitly provided for under that settlement. While AEP’s requested technology will result in less SO2 reduction at that plant, the eight-state coalition, EPA and environmental groups ultimately agreed to AEP’s request in exchange for a package of benefits which, overall, will achieve greater and quicker pollution cuts than the original settlement and provide additional funding for state environmental improvement projects. This agreement is contained in today’s amended settlement.
The 16 power plants in AEP’s eastern fleet are in Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky and emissions from these plants add significantly to smog and soot pollution in New York State. The pollutants emitted, particularly SO2 pollution, threaten human health and are directly linked to increases in asthma attacks and lung diseases. They also are primary contributors to acid rain which has severely damaged lakes, forests and wildlife throughout New York’s Adirondack and Catskill regions.
The amended settlement directly addresses the pollution released by these AEP power plants.