The Justice Department yesterday announced a settlement involving a New Jersey company under which the firm will spend $337 million to install pollution-control measures at two coal-fired power plants in the state.
The agreement, according to Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency officials, will eliminate thousands of tons of pollution created annually by the plants. The pact is only the second of its kind under new environmental rules and could lead to similar agreements involving pending lawsuits seeking pollution reductions at aging coal-fired plants throughout much of the country.
Under terms of the agreement, Public Service Enterprise Group Fossil LLC will be required to install the new pollution-control measures to curb sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from coal-fired plants in Jersey City and Hamilton, N.J.
“This important settlement reflects our continuing commitment to enforce vigorously the Clean Air Act to protect public health and the environment,” said Attorney General John Ashcroft.
“This agreement is an excellent example of how effective federal and state partnerships in enforcement actions can greatly benefit the environment and assure public health protection,” said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. “Today’s agreement will improve the air quality for those who live around the Mercer and Hudson plants.”
Justice Department officials said the combined effect of the pollution controls will reduce the company’s emissions of sulfur dioxide by 90 percent and its emissions of nitrogen oxides by more than 80 percent. Overall reductions will be at least 36,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 18,000 tons of nitrogen oxide per year.
They said the decreases is 32 percent of all the sulfur dioxide and 20 percent of all the nitrogen oxides emitted from stationary sources in New Jersey, and 19 percent of all the sulfur dioxides and 5 percent of all the nitorgen oxides from all sources in the state, including cars and trucks.
The settlement was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Newark and resolves federal and state accusations that the Hudson and Mercer plants were unlawfully operating because they were modified without installing necessary pollution controls and obtaining proper permits.
Under the agreement, the company will install flue gas desulfurization devices, also known as “scrubbers,” and will also undertake a program at both stations to upgrade the effectiveness of its existing control devices for particulate matter and will install one additional particulate-control device that will eliminate over 1,000 tons per year of that pollutant.
In addition, Justice Department officials said, the company will retire pollution-emission allowances and credits that PSEG Fossil or others could use to emit additional pollution into the environment.
“PSEG negotiated in good faith and demonstrated a willingness to put litigation considerations aside and to act quickly to improve the health of New Jersey’s citizens and the quality of air they breathe. We hope other utilities follow PSEG’s lead,” said Assistant Attorney General Tom Sansonetti, who heads the department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
In addition to the pollution reductions secured by the settlement, PSEG Fossil has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1.4 million and to spend at least $6 million on three additional projects that will partially offset the impact of past emissions, officials said.
The firm also will take steps to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide by 15 percent; contribute to New Jersey’s ongoing efforts to recover and use methane gas from landfills; and develop technology to reduce and monitor emissions of mercury from its plants.