The U.S. Justice Department has announced a "national initiative" to crack down on illegal coal burning. (See below.) And a power company in Montana has just cancelled plans to build a new coal-fired power plant. But will the U.S. Senate continue to tolerate coal burning in its own back yard -- at the ancient Capitol Power Plant? A sit-in protest is scheduled March 2. See excerpts below from today's Environment and Energy Daily.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ENRD
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2009 (202) 514-2007
WWW.USDOJ.GOV TDD (202) 514-1888
UNITED STATES FILES CLEAN AIR LAWSUIT AGAINST WESTAR ENERGY
Complaint Is Part of National Initiative to Stop Illegal Pollution from Coal-Fired Power Plants
WASHINGTON — The United States has filed a complaint against Westar Energy alleging that the company violated the Clean Air Act by making major modifications to the Jeffrey Energy Center, a coal-fired power plant in St. Marys, Kan., without also installing and operating modern pollution control equipment, the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.
The complaint alleges that for more than a decade, the Jeffrey Energy Center has operated without the best available emissions-control technology required by the New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act to control emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, contributing to formation of fine particulate matter, smog and acid rain.
The lawsuit, filed by the Justice Department on behalf of the EPA, asks the court to order Westar Energy to install and operate appropriate air pollution control technology in order to substantially reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions from the Jeffrey Energy Center. The United States also seeks civil penalties up to the maximum amount authorized by law, as well as actions by the energy provider to mitigate the adverse effects alleged to have been caused by the violations.
Coal-fired power plants collectively produce more pollution than any other industry in the United States. They account for nearly 70 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions each year and 20 percent of nitrogen oxides emissions. Emissions from coal-fired power plants have detrimental health effects on asthma sufferers, the elderly and children. Additionally, these emissions have been linked to forest degradation, waterway damage, reservoir contamination and deterioration of stone and copper in buildings.
To combat these adverse effects, the EPA and the Justice Department 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 in Kansas City, Kan.
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COAL: Protestors reignite dispute over Capitol Power Plant (02/05/2009)
Robin Bravender, E&E reporter
A coalition of advocacy groups led by veteran environmental activists are planning a massive sit-in on Capitol Hill next month to protest the continued burning of coal at an aging plant owned by the federal government.
More than 40 advocacy groups have signed onto the cause, teaming up with environmental heavy-hitters such as NASA climatologist James Hansen, who has been warning Congress about global warming for more than 20 years, and activist and author Bill McKibben.
"It's a power plant that's in Congress' back yard operated by them," said Matt Leonard of Greenpeace, who is helping organize the March 2 sit-in. "This is an iconic symbol of the political stranglehold that coal has."
How to deal with the 98-year-old Capitol Power Plant, which sits three blocks south of the House office buildings, has been a thorny issue for years within Congress. Environmentalists and Washington, D.C., residents have continually called for the plant to stop burning the fossil fuel while lawmakers from coal-producing states have fought to symbolically keep the plant running.
Protesters are hoping Congress will set an example for the country by removing coal from the Capitol Power Plant...
Attempts to cut coal face high costs, Senate opposition
Under the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) Green the Capitol initiative, the House of Representatives has shifted from burning coal to burning natural gas for the percentage of hot and cool air that the House uses...
.The Senate Rules Committee held a hearing last June about the possibility of reducing the use of coal even further, but the Senate has not yet eliminated the fossil fuel from the mix (E&E Daily, June 16, 2008).
Possible hurdles to halting coal burning at the plant include high costs and opposition from coal-state lawmakers who have staunchly opposed similar measures in the past. The Capitol Power Plant would need a $7 million upgrade to allow it to burn more natural gas in place of coal, the acting architect of the Capitol told a Senate panel in June.
Plans to eliminate coal from the plant have also come under fire from coal state senators including Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
"Sen. Byrd has been a supporter of the use of coal at the Capitol Hill power plant, but has also been an advocate of efforts to 'green' the Capitol campus," spokesman Jesse Jacobs said in an e-mail. Byrd has pushed to install carbon capture and storage technologies at the power plant, but a study last year determined that the plant was not suitable for such technology because of its location, Jacobs said.