The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 6, 2011

Feds sue Homer City coal plant over pollution

Associated Press

HOMER CITY — The federal government sued Thursday over a coal-burning electricity generating plant in Homer City, calling it “one of the largest air pollution sources in the nation” and asking the court to keep it from operating unless it meets Clean Air Act standards.

The lawsuit by the Justice Department, filed in Pittsburgh at the request of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the plant, with coal-fired, steam-generating boilers, had been modified unlawfully, resulting in significant discharge of harmful chemicals into the air.

“These pollutants harm public health and the environment, contributing to premature mortality, asthma attacks, acid rain and other adverse effects in downwind communities and natural areas,” the lawsuit alleged.

The defendants include EME Homer City Generation LP; as well as previous owners and operators New York State Electric & Gas Corp. of Rochester, N.Y., or NYSEG; and Erie-based Pennsylvania Electric Co., also known as Penelec.

Charley Parnell, a spokesman for the plant’s current operators, Edison Mission Energy of Santa Ana, Calif., said the company has not been able to review the lawsuit and could not comment on it, but noted it has spent about $300 million since its 1999 purchase to reduce emissions.

“It appears, based on an earlier notice of intent that we received from the government, that all of the alleged violations occurred before we acquired the facility,” Parnell said.

Edison Mission Energy is a subsidiary of Edison International of Rosemead, Calif.

Penelec spokesman Scott Surgeoner also declined comment because the lawsuit had not been reviewed, but noted the company sold its share of the Homer City plant more than a decade ago. Penelec is a subsidiary of First Energy Corp. of Akron, Ohio.

NYSEG spokesman Clay Ellis said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit asks the court for an injunction to prevent operation of the plant in violation of the Clean Air Act, to require defendants to obtain permits and remedy past violations, to force them to audit modifications and report the results, and to have them surrender emissions allowances or credits to offset illegal emissions.

It also wants an order that the defendants “take other appropriate actions to remedy, mitigate and offset the harm to public health and the environment” caused by alleged violations of the Clean Air Act; civil penalties and legal costs.