A major Michigan utility has been forced to shut down several coal-fired units and spend more than $US1 billion in reparation after the Environmental Protection Agency found it guilty of violating the Clean Air Act.
CMS Energy Corporation subsidiary Consumers Energy agreed to implement several environmental measures to resolve claims that it violated the Clean Air Act by modifying its facilities in a way that caused the release of excess sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.
The US Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday that Consumers Energy had agreed to install pollution control technology, continue operating existing pollution controls and comply with emission rates to reduce harmful air pollution from the company’s coal-fired power plants in West Olive, Essexville, Muskegon and Luna Pier, Michigan.
Consumers Energy – Michigan’s second-largest electric and natural gas utility that provides electricity to over six million people in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan – must pay a civil penalty of $US2.75 million ($A3.03 million) to resolve Clean Air Act violations and spend at least $7.7 million on environmental projects to “help mitigate the harmful effects of air pollution on the environment and benefit local communities”.
The $7.7 million includes paying $500,000 to the National Park Service for the restoration of land, watersheds, vegetation and forests or combating invasive species in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Park.
The remaining $7.2 million will be spent on a series of mitigation projects, which could include efforts to reduce vehicle emissions, install renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, replace or retrofit wood burning appliances, and protect and restore ecologically significant lands in Michigan. Consumers Energy has five years to complete its selected projects.
The EPA expects that the actions required by the settlement will reduce harmful emissions by over 46,500 tons per annum, which includes about 38,400tpa of sulphur dioxide and 8100tpa of nitrogen oxide.
Consumers Energy estimates it will spend over $1 billion to implement the required measures, achieving the pollution reductions via installation, upgrade and operation of state-of-the-art pollution control devices to reduce emissions and protect public health. It will also take several coal-fired units offline and may repower additional coal-fired units with natural gas.
The Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division official Sam Hirsch said the settlement would “bring cleaner air to residents in Michigan by removing tens of thousands of tons of harmful air pollution from the atmosphere”
The EPA said sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, two predominant pollutants emitted from power plants, have “numerous adverse effects on human health and are significant contributors to acid rain, smog, and haze”.
“These pollutants are converted in the air to particulate matter that can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts, and premature death,” the EPA said.
The settlement is part of EPA’s national enforcement initiative to “control harmful emissions” from large sources of pollution, which includes coal-fired power plants, under the Clean Air Act’s “prevention of significant deterioration” requirements.
The EPA said the total combined sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emission reductions secured from all these settlements would exceed 2Mtpa once all the required pollution controls have been installed and implemented.