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DOJ and EPA Settle With Westar Energy for $500 Mill

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on January 25, 2010 11:45 AM

The Department of Justice and the EPA announced today that they have entered into a major settlement with energy company Westar Energy over violations of the Clean Air Act. The company has agreed to pay nearly $500 million to reduce air pollution from its Kansas power plant, pay a $3 million civil penalty, and spend an additional $6 million on environmental projects.

The settlement will affect the Westar Jeffrey Energy Center, a coal-fired power plant near St. Marys, Kan. In its complaint against the company in February 2009, the government alleged that Westar modified all three units at the Jeffrey Energy Center, without installing required pollution control equipment or complying with the emission limits in violation of the Clean Air Act. As a result of the settlement, Westar will install pollution control equipment at the Jeffrey Energy Center that is expected to reduce the combined emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by approximately 78,600 tons per year. 

"Today's settlement sets the most stringent limit for sulfur dioxide emissions ever imposed on a coal-fired power plant in a federal settlement," said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

In addition to lessening the pollution emitted by its plant, Westar has also committed to spend $6 million on projects to benefit the environment such as retrofitting their diesel vehicles, purchasing hybrid vehicles, and installing wind turbines to provide electricity to a non-profit or school.

This settlement is part of the EPA's enforcement initiative to control the emissions from coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act's New Source Review requirements. The sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emitted from these plants can cause severe harm to human health and the environment.

The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and requires final court approval before becoming final.

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