Monday May 3, 2004
Mayor Jerry Abramson today announced that Louisville is seeking to join a federal lawsuit against Cinergy Corp. because emissions at its Gallagher Utility Plant violate clean air standards, threatening the community’s health.
“Louisville is joining this action because it is our contention,” Abramson said, “that emissions at Cinergy’s Gallagher Plant - directly across us from the Ohio River - are a significant contributor to our community’s air-quality challenges.”
The federal lawsuit, already pending in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, was initiated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Three states -- New Jersey, New York and Connecticut - have joined the lawsuit, along with the Hoosier Environmental Council of Indiana. Abramson said he believes Louisville is the first municipal government seeking to join the litigation.
Cinergy owns the Gallagher Plant, along with several other generating facilities in Indiana that are named in the suit. The suit argues that Cinergy has repeatedly violated federal Clean Air Act standards by increasing harmful emissions at several of its facilities without the required federal permits.
The lawsuit, expected to go to trial next year, demands that Cinergy install upgraded technology to lower emissions at its facilities. A penalty of up to $27,500 a day would be assessed for continued violations of the Clean Air Act, according to the lawsuit.
Abramson said Louisville is seeking to join the lawsuit now because local environmental officials expect that the community will be designated as out of compliance with a new federal standard for particulate matter, expected later this year.
Abramson added that he met with Jim Rogers, Cinergy’s CEO, a few months ago to discuss voluntary changes that could be made at Gallagher to reduce emissions. Cinergy’s refusal to make any changes was a factor in Louisville’s decision, seeking to join the lawsuit.
Particulate matter is caused by large concentrations of Sulfur Dioxide and Nitrogen Oxide, both of which are emitted in the atmosphere from the Gallagher facility.
Emissions from Gallagher more than double those of two LG&E facilities in the area - Mill Creek and Cane Run - which have in recent years installed scrubbers to limit emissions, Abramson said. And Mill Creek has more than twice the generating capacity of Gallagher, which has not installed scrubbers.
The crux of the legal action centers on a provision of the Clean Air Act known as New Source Review (NSR). NSR requires utilities to implement additional pollution control equipment when changes made to a generating plant result in significant net increase in emissions. Cinergy has made numerous modifications to its plants in recent years, resulting in significant emission increases. The company in recent years had reached a tentative multi-billion settlement with the EPA over the issue. Cinergy, though, backed away from the settlement, triggering the lawsuit.
“We cannot - and we will not - wait for Cinergy to act responsibly on behalf of its customers and residents who are impacted by emissions at its plants,” Abramson said. “It is important that we take action now as our community begins to formulate a comprehensive strategy to meet new federal clean-air requirements and improve our hometown’s air quality.”
Earlier this year, Abramson formed a task force - composed of environmentalists, business representatives and officials from regional governments - to address how the community and region meet new, more stringent eight-hour ozone standards being implemented by the federal government. Abramson said both the lawsuit and task force are important steps in what will be a long-term approach to Louisville’s air-quality challenges.
“While some of these issues involve different federal standards and different forms of emissions,” Abramson said, “they all contribute to the challenge of air quality, something that can indisputably impact the health and vibrancy of our community. With that in mind, today’s action is clearly in keeping with our goal of improving air quality in Louisville.”