DEEP: Clean Air Improvements Anticipated From New Agreement with American Electric Power Company

February 25, 2013
 
Clean Air Improvements Anticipated From New Agreement with American Electric Power Company
 
Attorney General George Jepsen and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel C. Esty said significant air quality improvements are anticipated from a new agreement with the nation’s largest electric power producer.
 
American Electric Power Company, Inc. of Ohio asked to revise a consent decree, which in 2007 settled a federal-multistate lawsuit over harmful pollution emitted by 16 of AEP’s coal-fired power plants across the Midwest and South. The decree required the company to install $4.6 billion worth of pollution controls and to invest $60 million in air pollution reduction projects.
 
AEP asked for the agreement to be reopened to change the pollution control technology on its two Rockport coal-fired plants in Indiana. In exchange, the company agreed to meet a lower sulfur dioxide limit across its Eastern system beginning in 2016. This is the third modification to the original consent decree.
 
“My Office agreed to reopen the settlement only if the changes would result in a greater environmental benefit to the state and the people of Connecticut, who suffer from higher rates of asthma than those nationally,” Attorney General Jepsen said. “This new agreement accomplishes that goal by reducing a significant source of sulfur dioxide pollution faster. It also commits AEP to equip more plants with pollution controls, switch them to cleaner fuels or close them down.”
 
DEEP Commissioner Esty said, “The modifications to the agreement with AEP will help improve Connecticut’s air quality and level the playing field between Connecticut and other states.  Our residents have long suffered the public health consequences of air pollution carried here from power plants elsewhere that burn dirtier fuels, while these other states benefited economically from low-cost electricity. The settlement with AEP – and the new revisions to it – moves us closer to closing this unfortunate chapter in our history.”
 
Under the new agreement, filed Friday in federal court in Ohio, AEP will cap its annual sulfur dioxide emissions at 145,000 tons by 2016, and progressively reduce that annual cap to 94,000 tons in 2029. The original agreement capped sulfur dioxide emissions for 2016 at 260,000 tons and ended cap reductions in 2019 at 174,000 tons.
 
AEP agreed to retire, retrofit, repower or refuel three units at other coal-fired plants, which affect air quality in the Northeast. It also agreed to pay $6 million, to be divided by the eight states participating in the agreement, for pollution mitigation projects, and to invest in renewable wind energy projects under certain conditions. Connecticut’s share is $714,286.
 
Sulfur dioxide is an air pollutant produced by the combustion of fossil fuels by power plants and by oil combustion. Exposure can adversely affect the respiratory system and increase asthma symptoms. Sulfur dioxide also reacts with other compounds in the atmosphere to form small particles, which are able to penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs and can cause or worsen respiratory disease, such as emphysema and bronchitis, and can aggravate existing heart disease.
 
Since 2000, Connecticut children and adults have had a higher incidence of asthma than those nationally. A recent state Department of Health (DPH) report showed that trend continued in 2010, when approximately 246,100, or 9.2 percent of Connecticut adults and 89,300, or 11.3 percent of Connecticut children had asthma, a chronic disease of the respiratory system characterized by a hyper-sensitivity and reversible obstruction of the airways.
Nationally in 2010, 18.7 million adults or 8.2 percent, and 7 million children, or 9.2 percent, had asthma, the DPH report said.
 
Asthma disproportionately affected Connecticut’s children, females, Hispanics, non-Hispanic Blacks, and residents of the state’s five largest cities, according to the report. Left uncontrolled or poorly-managed, asthma can lead to emergency department visits, hospitalization, or death. Asthma was blamed for 197 deaths in Connecticut between 2005 and 2009.
 
Assistant Attorneys General Lori DiBella, Environment, with Kimberly Massicotte, head of the Environment Department, worked with the Attorney General on this matter.